Researchers in Germany are testing a probe that could melt through Europa's ice sheet to analyze the water below for microbial life.
Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, has an ice covering as much as 18 miles deep and the probe being tested can melt through ice at about 6 feet per hour. However, significant engineering challenges remain, the BBC reported Monday.
The prototype, based on a design pioneered by the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany, is a 90-inch-long hollow aluminum cylinder with a copper melting head powered by an electrical cable.
Scientists believe with some improvements -- the melting head of the probe could be powered by a radioactive heating unit instead of an electrical cable and an external power source -- the concept could provide the answer for the Europa lander.
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