With an aim to explore the exotic environment of the subsurface oceans of Saturn’s icy moons, NASA scientists have proposed deploying a robotic system to search for an alien life. As these icy moons may potentially harbor life and if scientists can come up with a substantial proof of it, it will be a great discovery in itself.
According to the proposed concept, a surface-to-subsurface robotic system namely Icy-moon Cryovolcano Explorer (ICE) will be deployed which will land on the surface of an icy moon, traverse to a cryovolcano, descend into its opening, perform in-situ science in the vent or crevasse, and ultimately deploy underwater vehicles to explore a subsurface ocean.
This ICE involves three modules: Descent Module (DM), Surface Module (SM), and AUVs. DM carries AUVs and descends into a vent by using a combination of roving, climbing, rappelling, and hopping, like an experienced human alpinist. The estimated gas density of an ejecting plume is sufficiently low, therefore its dynamic pressure would not be an obstacle for descent.
The use of ICE brings three benefits: it enables in-situ science in a cryovolcano vent. Second, ICE enables the exploration of subsurface oceans by providing an access to it.
Third, it enables the operation of AUVs in subsurface ocean by providing three essential services: communication, localisation and power. Here DM plays a significant role relies on the power and communication link provided by SM through a cable to minimise the size and weight. DM transfers the data through an optic cable to SM, from which the data is transmitted to Earth by radio.