While Mars gets all the press, a group of NASA scientists are laying the groundwork for a more exotic destination: the ice-covered moon of Europa, locked in orbit above Jupiter. The oceans beneath the ice are thought to be fertile grounds for alien life, so scientists are eager to explore it if they can figure out how. And since the first step is drilling through the ice, the group is testing out its laser-powered drill on the Matanuska glacier in Alaska to see how it holds up in the field.
The mission itself might be closer than you think. President Obama set aside $15 million of NASA's 2015 budget specifically for Europa exploration, and some researchers think the project could launch an explorer probe as early as 2022. Even if NASA doesn't make it, the research might be useful to others: a privately funded European group is also laying the groundwork for a trip. You can see video of NASA's test below, complete with dramatic music, courtesy of the New Scientist: