Wednesday, May 29

Swarms of small robots may help find life on strange ocean worlds 2023

Science’s greatest mystery is whether we’re alone in the cosmos. NASA and other space organizations seek for extraterrestrial life. NASA’s SWIM (Sensing with Independent Micro-swimmers) mission idea seeks to find life on ocean worlds including Enceladus, Europa, and Titan.

These faraway planets have liquid seas under miles of frozen crust, making them ideal for extraterrestrial life. NASA is developing and refining ocean-access mission ideas, notably the SESAME class of thermo-mechanical drilling robots, to explore these underwater worlds.

SWIM, a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory idea, will greatly enhance SESAME’s capacity to discover biomarkers, habitability, and maybe life in these mysterious alien ocean worlds.

Swarm of tiny robots might improve chances of finding life on distant ocean planets

The SWIM system uses 100 cm3 micro-swimmers, 3D-printed swimming micro-robots. These small wonders have MEMS sensors, micro actuators for propulsion, and ultrasonic wave communication. Micro-swimmers deployed singly or in swarms from a SESAME robot mothercraft, which has restricted mobility after reaching and anchoring at the ocean-ice interface, exponentially increase its capabilities.

SWIM actively samples ocean water outside SESAME’s range to increase the odds of finding biomarkers, which may indicate life. Micro-swimmers allow scientists to assess important ocean characteristics, habitability indicators, and possible biomarkers in real time and space.

Using micro-swimmers, several activities are possible. Scientists can better grasp extraterrestrial ocean composition and habitability by using this collective intelligence.

The SWIM mission idea, currently under development, fits nicely with the next phase of space exploration: uncovering ocean world mysteries.

As mankind explores the enormous cosmic ocean in quest of answers that might change our understanding of life, the cosmos, and our position in it, the coming decades of space exploration will be fascinating.

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