A robot, under development at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), could one day jump on surfaces and fly through the air using the steam produced by melting ice. The idea is called Steam-Propelled Autonomous Retrieval Robot for Ocean Worlds (SPARROW) and is still – obviously – in an embryonic phase.
On a frozen moon like Jupiter’s Europe or Saturn’s Enceladus, SPARROW could potentially travel for several kilometers in the low gravity environment of the moon. “The terrain on Europa is probably very complex“Gareth Meirion-Griffith, chief researcher of the project, says in a statement.
SPARROW may encounter crevasses, porous ice and long blades of ice such as those typically formed at high latitudes on Earth. However, the steampunk rover could simply overcome these obstacles, since “has complete freedom to travel through otherwise inhospitable terrain.”
The spacecraft has already received Phase I funding from NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program. While a potential SPARROW mission is perhaps decades away from launch (if it ever happens), researchers already have some ideas on how to go about the exploration: a lander could release several swarms of these “steam rovers” to carry out independent investigations on the surface. of a world.
In short, certainly a very special way (and with style) to explore the frozen worlds of the Universe.