clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Valkyrie robot could use lasers to cut through ice and explore the moons of Jupiter

New, 23 comments

A new kind of robot is being developed that fires a high-powered laser through a fiberoptic cable in order to cut through thick ice and reach unexplored oceans in space.

NASA Europa
NASA Europa

NASA-funded Stone Aerospace is developing a new kind of robot that could one day use lasers to cut through the icy surfaces of moon-based oceans and explore the depths below. The company recently detailed the new machine, called Valkyrie, at NASA's Astrobiology Science Conference. The robot is a 6-foot long cylinder accompanied by a power source and laser that remain on the surface while it dives down deep, and it stays connected to them via a thin fiber-optic cable. This cable carries the laser's beam so that the Valkyrie can penetrate through the ice to reach the unexplored oceans on moons like Europa.

The team at Stone has already created several bots for icy underwater exploration in Antarctica, and real-world testing on the Valkyrie is expected to begin next June at Alaska's 4-mile wide Matanuska Glacier. There it will attempt to cut through 10-50 meters of ice and one year later it will try to make its way through 200 meters in Greenland. However, it will be quite some time before the robot manages to move from Earth's glaciers to the moon's of Jupiter — as of now we don't know enough about Europa's surface to ensure a safe landing.