NASA is currently testing its EELS robot on several types of surfaces (here sand). Image: Photography Courtesy of NASA / JPL-CaltechT
he US space agency, NASA, has developed an amazing robot whose role will be to explore Enceladus, one of the many moons of Saturn. The goal is to find out if there is water on this moon, and therefore potentially some form of life. Named the Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor (EELS), this robot was developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for a future space mission to Enceladus. EELS is not yet fully operational and is not expected to be before the end of 2024. Once it is, NASA plans to explore the possible presence of a liquid ocean under the ice present on the surface of this moon and, with it, the possibility of extraterrestrial life in some form.
The robot, which moves and slithers around like a snake, is made up of multiple segments with unique rotating propulsion units. This allows it to adhere to various surfaces, but also to move underwater. NASA's hope is that it will be able to slither through various cracks and holes in the terrain of Enceladus to reach this possible underlying ocean.
The robot measures nearly 5 meters in length and weighs almost 100 kg. At the front, a dedicated module can capture the surroundings in 3D and send videos to Earth. The rest of the body can help take various measurements, such as pressure, electrical conductivity or temperature of the visited soils and subsoils.
Note that the journey to Enceladus alone is likely to take around 12 years.
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