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Mar 1 / Dave Schumaker

NASA DEPTHX mission to explore Mexican sinkhole

depthx.jpgNASA’s DEPTHX (Deep Phreatic Thermal Explorer) is an autonomous robot that is 2.5 meters in diameter. Researchers hope it will one day explore exotic locales such as Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.

Last month, scientists successfully completed a test of the robotic device in a 115 meter deep geothermal sinkhole (also known as cenotes) located in Mexico. Due to the small confines of cenotes, traditional robotic explorers that are connected to the surface via a system of cables may become tangled or trapped. DEPTHX hopes to overcome these obstacles by being completely self contained.

This spring, DEPTHX will travel to Zacatón, the world’s deepest sinkhole at over 300 meters, in order to further test the robot’s autonomous capabilities in the confines of a small area.

Photo of Zacatón (Source: Wikipedia)

If all goes according to plan, the technology could be used in NASA’s Europa Geophysical Explorer Study which will launch in 2015 at the earliest.

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