DEPTHX- Practicing for Europa

Music
Ambience: DEPTHX Underwater

The sound we’re listening to is from an underwater video recording of the robot known as DEPTHX. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. John Spear is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. John and his colleagues are testing a robot that may eventually be used to explore one of Jupiter’s moons. But first, they are starting closer to home and sending the robot to Zacatn Cenote, the world’s deepest water-filled sinkhole.

“So, Zacatn is a place that’s filled with water. It’s probably 300 meters deep, and it’s about 100 meters across, and it’s basically a big cylinder in the ground. So, how that is like Europa is the water portion. Europa is an icy covered moon of Jupiter. No one really knows how thick the ice is on Europa, but it’s hypothesized to be at least several kilometers. And then, beneath that icecap is believed to be an ocean, because the water has to come from somewhere. And so, if there’s an ocean beneath that, and if there’s thermal input to that ocean, it’s potentially liquid water, and liquid water is one of the key ingredients for life.

The DEPTHX robot is self-navigating. Designed to explore where humans cannot go, the DEPTHX must create its own map as it goes, using sonar.

“What Zacatn affords that’s similar to Europa is this water-filled environment. It has surfaces that you can do sonar on, which is kind of nice because you need to map that ocean underneath Europa too. You’d want to know are there rocks? Are there mountains, volcanoes? So, DEPTHX can do that by sonar mapping. And so, Zacatn can afford the opportunity to explore a place that’s unknown. And that would be just like going to Europa and exploring this ocean that’s unknown.”

We’ll hear more about the DEPTHX robot in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation, with additional support from NASA.

DEPTHX- Practicing for Europa

Research in Mexico may one day lead scientists to one of Jupiter's moons!
Air Date:08/21/2007
Scientist:
Transcript:

Music
Ambience: DEPTHX Underwater

The sound we’re listening to is from an underwater video recording of the robot known as DEPTHX. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. John Spear is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. John and his colleagues are testing a robot that may eventually be used to explore one of Jupiter’s moons. But first, they are starting closer to home and sending the robot to Zacatn Cenote, the world’s deepest water-filled sinkhole.

“So, Zacatn is a place that’s filled with water. It’s probably 300 meters deep, and it’s about 100 meters across, and it’s basically a big cylinder in the ground. So, how that is like Europa is the water portion. Europa is an icy covered moon of Jupiter. No one really knows how thick the ice is on Europa, but it’s hypothesized to be at least several kilometers. And then, beneath that icecap is believed to be an ocean, because the water has to come from somewhere. And so, if there’s an ocean beneath that, and if there’s thermal input to that ocean, it’s potentially liquid water, and liquid water is one of the key ingredients for life.

The DEPTHX robot is self-navigating. Designed to explore where humans cannot go, the DEPTHX must create its own map as it goes, using sonar.

“What Zacatn affords that’s similar to Europa is this water-filled environment. It has surfaces that you can do sonar on, which is kind of nice because you need to map that ocean underneath Europa too. You’d want to know are there rocks? Are there mountains, volcanoes? So, DEPTHX can do that by sonar mapping. And so, Zacatn can afford the opportunity to explore a place that’s unknown. And that would be just like going to Europa and exploring this ocean that’s unknown.”

We’ll hear more about the DEPTHX robot in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation, with additional support from NASA.