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Melt probes for a Future Europa Lander
June 8 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Speaker: Paula do Vale Pereira is a PhD Candidate in Aerospace Engineering at MIT.
Water is essential to the formation and evolution of life as we know it. The Earth is an example of a planet full of liquid water where life has successfully formed. Fortunately, water is fairly common in our solar system—many other celestial bodies present oceans of liquid water. In the search for finding extraterrestrial life, our best bet may be traveling to such nearby Ocean Worlds. Jupiter’s moon Europa, for example, is believed to harbor not only liquid water but also easily available energy and biologically essential elements. However, these are not readily available at the surface—an ice crust up to 30 km thick covers the liquid water. Therefore, a key remaining challenge is reaching the oceans of Europa. This requires developing ice penetrators that can carry payloads from the cryogenic vacuum at the surface to the liquid water ocean below the ice. Initial steps have been taken to develop analytical and numerical models of the thermal and physical dynamics of ice penetrators in Europa-relevant environments, but experimental validation of these models has been limited. We have built and experimentally tested the performance of a set of melt probes under thermodynamic conditions similar to those of Europa. Our probes are designed to test the fundamental thermal properties of melt probes in cryogenic ice. They include monitoring of power, temperature, and penetration depth. The validated thermal model resulting from this work will help optimize the probe design for a future Europa lander, minimizing the time it takes for the probe to reach the ocean and maximizing the science return of a mission to Europa.
Speaker(s): Paula do Vale Pereira ,