May 15, 2015 I Paul Seaburn

NASA Sending Robot Sea Serpent to Europa Seeking Sea Salt

If aliens find a strange, long, squiggly creature swimming in one of Europa’s lakes, will they call it the Loch NASA monster? That could happen if a) there are aliens on one of Jupiter’s moons and b) if NASA sends an amphibious robot shaped like a giant eel that’s currently under development. And what exciting discoveries might this robotic sea serpent be seeking on its swim? Would you believe sea salt?

A Cornell University engineering team, led by Mason Peck and Rob Shepherd of the school’s mechanical and aerospace engineering department, is using a $100,000 starter grant from NASA to design a soft robot shaped like a lamprey (those eels with the scary-looking toothy sucking mouths) that will generate its own power by first using its tentacles to harvest electricity from magnetic fields. This would power an electrolysis pack that would separate water into oxygen and hydrogen that can be used for fuel, says Peck.

Igniting this gas expands these internal chambers, causing shape change to propel the rover through fluid or perhaps along the surface of a planetary body.

The robotic eel would also have electroluminescent skin to provide lighting for underwater photography.

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What the robotic sea serpent might look like under Europa's ice

If this Loch NASA monster encounters the mysterious dark matter puzzled astronomers see erupting from the surface of Europa, what will it find? A research team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab created a device called “Europa in a can” that replicates the pressures, temperatures and radiation levels there. After a few hours in the Europa can, white table salt (sodium chloride) turned dark and matched the color of the matter seen by the Galileo spacecraft on its mission.

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Salt sample and Europa in a can

OK, dark sea salt isn’t sexy but it’s definitely an important discovery since it means there could be an ocean under Europa’s ice that may contain life.

Let’s hope that the alien life isn’t terrified by the NASA robotic sea monster and sends its own Europazilla to retaliate.

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An alien monster or a sea lamprey?


Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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