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Under Antarctica's Ice, Scientists Practice Exploring Space With Robots To Be Used In Search For Extraterrestrial Life
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Alien Seas
Icefin is meant to search for alien life—a "bug hunt," as some scientists cheerfully call it. It is bound for the icy waters of Jupiter’s moon, Europa, possibly as soon as 2030.
The new equipment includes new sensors...to see if Europa could support the rise of life."
“Icefin is capable of deploying through small drill holes in the ice, similar to what will one day be needed to explore Europa,” Schmidt says. “In the meantime, this project is looking to understand how ice-ocean interactions operate in Antarctica, and how these processes may couple to biological communities.”
Like many subsea drones, the 10-foot-long Icefin is shaped like a torpedo. It made headlines in 2014 as one of the prototype drones that plumbed the Antarctic as part of a NASA program to test the technology. Now, a new program called the Ross Ice Shelf and Europa Underwater Probe (RISE UP), NASA is funding three expeditions to put an upgraded Icefin under the ice. This was its first deployment.

The new equipment includes sensors to monitor for organics and measure environmental factors like the presence of dissolved oxygen and levels of acidity, all to see if Europa could (in theory) support life in its subterranean seas.
“We got Icefin flying great, exercised all of our instruments, and got great data from three different target sites," Schmidt says, "including traversing over two kilometers out under the McMurdo Ice Shelf, reaching the sea floor below the shelf at two areas locations and depths [530 meters and around 800 meters], and surveyed the Erebus glacier tongue."
On Its Own
The subsea drone is also smarter than its prototype predecessor, and that high-IQ autonomy would be needed on Europa. The probe must not only operate 400 million miles from Earth but also navigate all by itself under alien ice.

Cite:  https://www.popularmechanics.com/space/s...ntarctica/

Icefin. It kind of sounds like the name of a new James Bond film. And actually, it could be at home in one.
The robotic vehicle was deployed at the end of last year by a team of scientists and engineers from the Georgia Institute of Technology through about 65 feet of ice and 1,640 feet of water to the sea floor in Antarctica. The just-released video above provides a look at what the needle-like vessel saw when down there, including a surprising amount of life such as sponges, anemones and sea stars.
"We saw evidence of a complex community on the sea floor that has never been observed before, and unprecedented detail on the ice-ocean interface that hasn't been achieved before," Britney Schmidt said in a new report about the expedition from GT. Schmidt is an assistant professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech, and the principle investigator for the Icefin project.
Because Icefin is shaped like a long thin needle, the researchers were able to deploy it at McMurdo research station in Antarctica through a hole with a diameter of only 12 inches (about 30 centimeters).

Though it has a slender profile, Icefin is incredibly robust. It has a modular design, which means researchers can swap out different instruments based on their needs -- just like many spacecraft. That's fitting, as Icefin was deployed as part of the NASA-funded Sub Ice Marine and Planetary-analog Ecosystem (Simple) program, an effort to understand the way icy crusts interface with the water beneath them.
"What's unique about the vehicle is the combination of size and instrumentation," Schmidt told Crave. "Other under-ice vehicles the size of Icefin (which is less than 300 pounds) are generally only capable of operations under sea ice and depth and range of about 500 feet, and with low instrumentation -- meaning a camera and maybe one other instrument. Icefin can handle depths to 1.5 kilometers (just under a mile) and a range of 3-4 kilometers (about 1.8-2 miles), with the same or more instrumentation as vehicles like Autosub that weigh several tons."

Cite:  https://www.cnet.com/news/icefin-robot-t...ters-moon/

Icefin is the name of the remotely operated vehicle (ROV)that was tasked with diving 1,640 feet into the ocean. The project’s engineers hail from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and they partnered with scientists to give Icefin capabilities that no other ROV has had. In the past, these machines were unable to dive a distance beyond a few hundred meters, but that was not nearly good enough to explore the depths of the Southern Ocean near Antarctica.
How Did Icefin Penetrate the Ice?
Icefin was deployed at Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf, but it needed some assistance to begin collecting footage. The research team made a one foot wide hole in the ice that extended down 66 feet. After this step was completed, they were able to drop the ROV into the hole they had created. From there, Icefin had to be directed to the bottom of the ocean via simultaneous localization and mapping, also known as SLAM. This was necessary because GPS is unable to work underneath such a thick sheet of ice.
What Did Icefin Find?
The conditions underneath the Ross Ice Shelf are known to be harsh, but Icefin captured evidence of a strong and thriving community of life that exists near the sea floor. This footage will help scientists learn about the adaptation skills of the local marine life, and the lessons that are learned in Antarctica could be applied to many other environments in the future. There were many types of marine life recorded by Icefin, including anemones, sponges and sea stars.  

https://oceanwide-expeditions.com/blog/i...-sea-floor

Alien Seas
Icefin is meant to search for alien life—a "bug hunt," as some scientists cheerfully call it. It is bound for the icy waters of Jupiter’s moon, Europa, possibly as soon as 2030.
The new equipment includes new sensors...to see if Europa could support the rise of life."
“Icefin is capable of deploying through small drill holes in the ice, similar to what will one day be needed to explore Europa,” Schmidt says. “In the meantime, this project is looking to understand how ice-ocean interactions operate in Antarctica, and how these processes may couple to biological communities.”
Like many subsea drones, the 10-foot-long Icefin is shaped like a torpedo. It made headlines in 2014 as one of the prototype drones that plumbed the Antarctic as part of a NASA program to test the technology. Now, a new program called the Ross Ice Shelf and Europa Underwater Probe (RISE UP), NASA is funding three expeditions to put an upgraded Icefin under the ice. This was its first deployment.

Cite:  http://www.eas.gatech.edu/search-aliens-...antarctica

They will use this robot to search for extraterrestrial life on other planets and our own.  -Sivil
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