NASA outlines plan to use steam-powered robots to explore icy moons

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2020-06-26 11:44:28

A fleet of steam-powered robots could one day be used to explore the moons of Jupiter and Saturn by ‘taking giant leaps across their frozen landscapes’.

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory researchers are developing small football-sized spherical robots equipped with steam-powered thrusters for future exploration. 

If they ever move beyond the initial concept stage, the robots would let scientists explore icy moons such as Europa and Enceladus orbiting Jupiter and Saturn. 

These moons are thought to harbour salty subsurface oceans of liquid water, but very little is known about their surface – making it a potentially challenging terrain for a traditional moon rover, but easy for a leaping robotic ball powered by steam.

The bots, called SPARROW, would run on steam from ice that was collected by mining the surfaces of the moons they explore – rather than ‘dirty’ rocket fuel. 

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory researchers are developing small football sized spherical robots equipped with steam powered thrusters for future exploration – they would be supported by a lander that would mine the surface for ice to power the robot

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