I visited the SIMPLE site located on the McMurdo Sound sea ice 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.

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