New fibre optic technology is in development which could allow cryobots to drill through icy lakes on distant moons and explore new extra terrestrial landscapes.
High energy laser beams will be employed to shoot powerful lasers through several miles of thin fibre optic cables, allowing so far unexplored territory to be studied by extraterrestrial rovers.
Bill Stone, an explorer and inventor, revealed plans for the fibre optic cable innovation at the Astrobiology Science Conference, hosted by Nasa in Atlanta on 19th April.
Stone explained the goal for the next three years is to send a cryobot through 250 metres of ice using a five thousand watt laser and fibre optic cables.
Scientists have been attempting to explore the terrain beneath Europa’s icy crust for several years but so far their attempts have proved problematic because of the amount of energy needed to drill through several hundred feet of thick ice.
Solar power is ineffective once cryobots have passed through the ice and batteries are not powerful enough to do the job. Some scientists are looking to nuclear power to solve the problem but at present the footprint of a nuclear reactor would be too large to be fitted to a cryobot. In addition, nuclear devices cannot be tested in Antarctica due to restrictions put in place by the International Treaty.
If lasers and fibre optic cable are employed, Valkyrie, a new robot which measures 6 feet by 10 inches, would travel from a power plant on Europa’s surface complete with a high energy laser. The laser would then be beamed down miles of fibre optic cable which would uncoil as the robot drilled into the ice. It will then explore the oceans below, collect samples and then melt its way back up to the surface and seal the hole it has created behind it.
The system suing fibre optic cables and lasers has already been built and tested in Texas and there are plans to test the system’s capabilities at the Matanuska glacier in Alaska in June next year.
If tests are successful cryobots could be transported to the moon of Europa within the next three years, allowing us to explore the mysterious oceans that lie beneath the icy surface of Europa.
The proposed usage of lasers and fibre optic cables to power cryobots is just one of the many innovative ways that fibre optic cables are being utilised throughout the world.
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