NASA is developing a ‘robotic eel’ that could explore the icy water of Jupiter’s moon Europa and power itself with energy derived from local magnetic fields.
The US space agency has selected 15 proposals for study under Phase I of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC), a programme that aims to turn science fiction into science fact through the development of pioneering technologies.
“The latest NIAC selections include a number of exciting concepts,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
One of the selected proposals calls for the use of a soft-robotic rover for missions that can not be accomplished with conventional power systems.
This rover would resemble an eel with a short antenna on its back that harvests power from locally changing magnetic fields.
“The goal is to enable amphibious exploration of gas-giant moons like Europa,” NASA said.
Another proposal will look at using two glider-like unmanned aerial vehicles connected by an ultra-strong cable at different altitudes that sail without propulsion.