Valkyrie Robot Could use Lasers to Bore into Jupiter's MoonsA NASA-funded company is working on a robot to bore through the icy shell of Jupiter’s moons. Traditional boring technologies aren’t practical, as the depth and distance makes physically drilling through the ice impractical. What to do?
Strap a laser to it.
The Company, Stone Aerospace, just pulled the curtain back on a project aiming to do just that. Named Valkyrie, the robot would be a 6-foot long cylinder trailing a fiberoptic cable. On the surface above, a power source (as yet unnamed) and a laser sit. The laser shines down the fiberoptic cable, where the tiny little descender diffuses it and uses it to melt the ice.
If you think this is a pipe dream, think again. Stone has already made several bots to function in Antarctica, getting through the ice, and the company is planning to start testing the Valkyrie next June. This project is actually far into its development cycle. The test will take place at Alaska’s Matanuska Glacier, where it will be expected to bore through 50 meters of ice. If that test is successful, they’ll take the bot to Greenland the next year and let it test its mettle against 200 meters of ice.
Even this initial bot is just a prototype, however. It would need to be significantly refined before being packed away for Europa or another icy moon. First off, we barely know enough about the moon to attempt a landing. And even then, space launches are all about economy. Every space ounce will need to be ripped from Valkyrie’s bones if it wants to land on a foreign moon.
But the icy oceans under Europa are one of the spots we believe life could have evolved. It is worth the trip, if only to find out for sure whether we are alone in the universe.