How NASA’s miniature ‘swimming robots’ will probe distant worlds for extraterrestrial life


A NASA engineer is developing “swimming robots” to help humanity hunt alien life. These smartphone-sized robots could swim in alien waters to observe life underwaterif only.

For example, scientists suspect there could be life in the water under an icy shell on Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

The tiny robots would also be equipped with ice-melting capabilities to break through the icy crust and reach the water. Once underwater, these robots would swim like fish, giving humans a glimpse of alien worlds like never before imagined.


Meet the “SWIM” robots

Created by Ethan Schaler, a mechanical robotics engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, the “Sensing With Independent Micro-Swimmers” (SWIM) concept recently received $600,000 in funding from the program. NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC).


The money will be used over the next two years to build and test 3D printed prototypes of these little robots. According to the first concepts, the robots would be 12 centimeters long and 60 to 75 cubic centimeters in volume. Plus, they’ll rock a wedge shape! About four dozen of these swimmers could fit in a cryobot, an ice-penetrating robot.

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According to a press release, each robot would have its propulsion system, a computer, an ultrasound communication system and sensors to measure temperature, salinity, pressure and acidity.

What is the plan for these robots?

NASA’s next Europa Clipper mission will perform numerous flybys along Jupiter’s moon after a 2024 launch. Such robot-based concepts could help scientists gain insight that no other method could offer.


The swimming robots would be deployed using the cryobot which would communicate with a surface lander. In turn, this lander would communicate with mission controllers on Earth. “What if, after all those years it took to enter an ocean, you cross the ice shell in the wrong place? What if there are signs of life there but not where you entered the ocean? By bringing these swarms of robots with us, we would be able to look ‘over there’ to explore much more of our environment than a single cryobot would allow,” Samuel Howell of the SWIM team said in a statement. hurry.

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it gets crazier! The cryobot would be backed by a nuclear battery to melt the ice and allow swimmers to enter the water. Additionally, robots could mimic fish and birds to “herd” to reduce the scope for data errors.

What do you think of such experimental technology to help hunt life on extraterrestrial lands? For more in the world of Technology and Sciencekeep reading


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