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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 a hydrobot).

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.

 surface
________    _____________  ________    _____________
|       |^^^|           |  |       |^^^|           |
| 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.


www.smithsonianmag.si.edu/smithsonian/issues00/jul00/vostok.html
technology.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/gl_pages/cryobot.html

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