Nasa reveals plans for SWIMMING robots that can find underwater aliens on other planets

NASA wants to start building a swarm of mini swimming robots that can search oceans on other planets for aliens.

A space agency expert has come up with an idea for an ice-melting probe that can send a cargo of phone-sized bots deep into the water.

Artist's impression of how such a project could work


Artist’s impression of how such a project could workCredit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Such a plan could be used to sniff out signs of extraterrestrial life beneath the kilometer-thick icy shell of Jupiter’s moon Europa or Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

“My idea is, where can we take miniaturized robotics and use them in interesting new ways to explore our solar system?” said Nasa engineer Ethan Schaler.

“With a swarm of small swimming robots, we are able to explore a much larger volume of seawater and improve our measurements by having multiple robots in the same area collecting data.”

The wild project is aptly named SWIM – or Sensing With Independent Micro-Swimmers.

A team will begin building prototypes over the next two years after funding has been secured.

They plan to create wedge-shaped robots that are about 5 inches long and 3 to 5 cubic inches tall.

Nearly 50 are packed into a cryobot where they can “flock” together like fish to find clues.

The main ship will mainly carry equipment to collect data during the long journey through the thick ice.

It can then relay the information to a surface-based lander for experts on Earth to study.

“What if, after all these years it’s taken you to get into an ocean, you’re coming through the ice tray in the wrong place?” said SWIM team scientist Samuel Howell.

“What if there are signs of life over there but not where you entered the sea?

“By bringing these swarms of robots with us, we could look ‘over there’ to explore much more of our surroundings than a single cryobot would allow.”

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Since the idea is still in the early testing phase, the robots are not yet connected to missions.

But Nasa is clearly interested in solving one of mankind’s greatest mysteries.

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