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Geophysical Research Abstracts, 2014 EGU General Assembly 2014

Vol. 16. EGU General Assembly, 2014.

The exploration of icy satellites such as Saturn’s moon Enceladus or Jupiter’s moons Europa and Ganymede is one of the popular branches in modern space research. Each icy body has its own feature: water ice presence on Enceladus, cryo-vulcanism on Ganymede, Europa’s smooth shell. Also conditions on these moons allow speculation about possible life, considering these moons from an astrobiological point of view.

Research in the last decade shows that there should be a deep ocean (the estimated thickness varies up to 100km) under the icy sheet of Europa. The estimated thickness of the ice on Ganymede varies up to 800km. To study this possible ocean and to look for life’s traces, it is necessary to penetrate the icy sheet. This means that special equipment should be designed. On the Earth, similar kinds of probes have been used successfully to study glaciers. Use of such probes enables extrapolation from terrestrial to extraterrestrial application.

There are several ways to penetrate through the ice. The authors consider these possibilities and explain why, in the case of exploration of icy moons, a melting probe is preferred.

Other unsolved problems are in the areas of analyzing how the probe will move in low gravity and low atmospheric pressure; whether the hole formed in the ice will be closed when the probe penetrates far enough or not; what is the influence of the probe’s characteristics on the melting process; and what would be the order of magnitude of the penetration velocity. This study explores the technique based on elasto-plastic theory and so-called “solid water” theory to estimate the melting velocity and to study the melting process. Based on this technique, the authors considered several cases of melting probe motion, estimated the velocity of the melting probe, studied and discussed the influence of different factors, and propose an easy way to optimize the parameters of the probe.

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Geophysical Research Abstracts, 2014 EGU General Assembly 2014