SIMPLE Artemis / by Shaun O'Boyle

I visited the SIMPLE site on the sea ice on December 8th and was, once again, amazed at the science and technology that is being used and tested here in Antarctica. Artimus is an underwater vehicle being tested for use on Jupiter's moon Europa, which is thought to have liquid water under about 100 kilometers of ice. I watched the team launch and operate the vehicle. The most direct way for me to describe the SIMPLE project is to pull information directly from their website: The SIMPLE project is anything but–it is a NASA Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP) project funded to conduct an in-depth study of the McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica as a proxy for future exploration of Europa.  We are using four vehicles funded by the project, and one built under PI Schmidt’s startup at Georgia Tech, to explore and characterize the ice shelf and complete the science.  SIMPLE is a collaboration of Georgia Tech, University of Illinois, Chicago, University of Texas, Stone Aerospace, Moss Landing Marine Laboratory and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

The purpose of SIMPLE is to understand how the ice and ocean interact and support life on Earth and from this to better understand ice-ocean systems on other planets, namely Jupiter’s moon Europa.  We are testing technology that will be used both on future orbiting and hopefully landed spacecraft to characterize this enticing astrobiological target.

Artemis–Artemis is a large hybrid autonomous underwater vehicle built by Stone Aerospace that is the primary vehicle developed under SIMPLE.  Artemis is a long-range adapted version of the successful ENDURANCE and DEPTH-X vehicles.  Artemis carries remote and in situ instruments for characterizing the water, ice and any microbiology found within and below the ice: a CTD, ADCP, mapping and profiling sonars, imaging, HD video, a science tower with DOM, chlorophyll-a, turbidity, and pH sensors, as well as a water sampler and a protein fluorescence spectrometer to test for microbiological communities within and on the ice.  Artemis is 1000m depth rated, and will perform ~15 km long gridded surveys at the ice-ocean interface and along the benthic interface to fully characterize the environment below the MIS in the 2015-16 Antarctic field season.   Here is a link to their website:  http://schmidt.eas.gatech.edu/simple/

And this link is to my main webpage of color photographs of Simple Artemis

SIMPLE site on the sea ice about 1/2 ride on snow mobile from McMurdo Station.

The Artimus vehicle being readied for launch.

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Bill Stone of Stone Aerospace giving an overview of the Artemis vehicle.

Team meeting and review of the day's planned activities.

Very carefully lowering the vehicle through the ice into the water.

Testing the beacon which can be used by the vehicle find it's way back to home.

Bill Stone preparing to dive to confirm all is well with the vehicle prior to starting the day test run.

The vehicle is fully automated, but can be controlled at a console if required.

The hours long wait while the vehicle goes through its run for the day, and carefully feeding out fiber optic cable for the data feed from Artemus.

When we left the site the wind had picked up significantly and visibility was poor due to wind blown drift.