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Current Affairs > Science and Technology > 2018-12-17 > Science and Technology

Nuclear-powered ‘tunnelbot’ to search for life on Jupiter’s moon Europa

What in news:

·         Scientists are designing a nuclear-powered “tunnelbot” that can penetrate through the icy shell of Jupiter’s moon Europa and search for signs of life in its sub-surface ocean.

About news:

·         Between 1995 and 2003, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft made several flybys of Jupiter’s moon, Europa.

·          Several findings from observations of the moon pointed to evidence of a liquid ocean beneath Europa’s icy surface.

·         Researchers believe that the ocean could harbour microbial life, or evidence of now-extinct microbial life.

·         While scientists generally agree on where to look — underneath the thick, planet-wide ice shell where water is in contact with a rocky core and where biochemical ingredients for life may exist — how to get there to collect samples remains a major tactical problem.

·         Estimates of the thickness of the ice shell range between 2 and 30 kilometers, and is a major barrier any lander will have to overcome in order to access areas we think have a chance of holding biosignatures representative of life on Europa.

·         Scientists are designing a nuclear-powered “tunnelbot” that can penetrate through the icy shell of Jupiter’s moon Europa and search for signs of life in its sub-surface ocean.

·         Between 1995 and 2003, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft made several flybys of Jupiter’s moon, Europa.

·         Several findings from observations of the moon pointed to evidence of a liquid ocean beneath Europa’s icy surface.

·         Researchers believe that the ocean could harbour microbial life, or evidence of now-extinct microbial life.

·         The group performed a concept study for a nuclear-powered “tunnelbot” that can penetrate the ice shell and reach the top of Europa’s ocean while carrying devices and instruments that can be used to search for signs of life or extinct life.

Europa:

·         Europa is the smallest of the four Galilean moons orbiting Jupiter, and the sixth-closest to the planet.

·          It is also the sixth-largest moon in the Solar System.

·         Europa was discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei.

·         Europa is primarily made of silicate rock and has a water-ice crust and probably an iron–nickel core.

·         It has a very thin atmosphere composed primarily of oxygen.

Expected prelims question

Europa belong to

a)       Neptune

b)      Mars

c)       Jupiter

d)      Earth

Ans : c

Expected mains question

Scientists are designing a nuclear-powered “tunnelbot” that can penetrate through the icy shell of Jupiter’s moon Europa and search for signs of life. Comment.