A cryobot is a robot which could be used to penetrate deep ice-covered
lakes capable of deploying a static camera or swimming robot (also known as
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) plans to use a cryobot to deploy a
swimming robot into the as of yet unexplored depths of Lake Vostok. Located in
the icy region of Antarctica, Lake Vostok may provide clues about other cold
watery regions in the solar system, especially the vast oceans which may exist
under the icy surface of Jupiter's moon Europa.
Because drilling may damage the icy surface of Lake Vostok, and requires too
much energy, cryobots melt their way down to the entrapped liquid lake. The
water left behind in the wake of the cryobot will refreeze, leaving the machine
trapped for eternity. NASA engineers have developed an ingenious method for
sanitizing the machine, to keep from contaminating the lake with bacteria or
viruses. Just before the cryobot reaches the water, it will stop and give itself
a sanitizing bath while entombed in the ice. Then, once cleaned, the bot will
pierce the surface of the water and deploy the payload.
________ _____________ ________ _____________
| |^^^| | | |^^^| |
| ice | | | | | | |
| | |<-refrozen | | | | |
| |___| | | |___| |
| | _ |<-water | | | | |
| |( )| | | | _ | |
| || || | | |( )| |
| || ||<-cryobot | | || || |
| |(_)| | | || || <-cryobot |
| |___| | | |(_)| |
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ^^^^^^^^^ / ^^^^^^^^^^^^^
| lake | | / |
|_ | |_ |<> <-hydrobot |
| \_____ vents | | \_____ |
| \___ __/| | \___ __/|
| bedrock \_()__()/ | | \_()__()/ |
Currently, Russian scientists have drilled up to 400 feet away from the
subglacial lake, using a cryobot. The scientists stopped short of lake itself
because the cryobot in use has no method for self-cleaning nor does it contain a
hydrobot or static camera. Instead, the cryobot has been receiving and
transmitting data about earth's climate over the past 420,000 years.
Of the over seventy-six subglacial lakes discovered in Antarctica, Lake Vostok
is the most likely to contain life. Warm vents, which bring gasses from the
bedrock beneath the lake, are thought to exist in Lake Vostok. Elsewhere on the
globe, scientists have found life in and around these vents, however never in
a closed, subglacial, environment. The water contained in the lake is millions
of years old, virgin to the modern atmosphere. If life is discovered here,
scientists could learn much about how life originally formed on earth.
Another goal of cryobot technology is to explore the northern polar ice caps
of Mars. Cryobots are simple enough in design to be deployed by robotic
drones, and energy efficient enough to be used on an interplanetary mission.
Undoubtedly, cryobots are an essential part of the future of human's exploration of space, as well as earth.