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Astronomical Society of Long Island

ASLI Weekly Meeting


Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor (EELS): A Snakelike Robot to Access the Hard-to-Reach Places of Ocean Worlds and Beyo…

  • Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium NY
  • 180 Little Neck Road
  • Centerport, NY
  • United States
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  • July 25, 2024 at 1:00 AM through 2:30 AM
CommunityAstronomy & Space
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Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor (EELS): A Snakelike Robot to Access the Hard-to-Reach Places of Ocean Worlds and Beyond
Certain moons of Jupiter and Saturn such as Europa and Enceladus – so-called ‘Ocean Worlds’ as they have liquid water oceans underneath icy crusts – offer the best opportunity to search for evidence of life outside of Earth in our solar system. Measurements made by previous missions indicate that these worlds meet all criteria for habitability: liquid water, chemical building blocks including organics, and energy sources. However, accessing these subsurface oceans is a challenge. Our team at JPL has developed the Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor (EELS), a snakelike robot capable of autonomously traversing a spectrum of terrains including steep slopes and obstacles, enclosed labyrinthian environments and vertical ice shafts. We recently completed a field campaign at Athabasca Glacier in Canada, which hosts ice surface features and glacial crevasses and conduits ideal for robotic testing. I’ll describe our results from that campaign and discuss the implications for future exploration of Ocean Worlds
Dr. Cable is a Research Scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. She is the Science Lead for the Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor (EELS) concept and Co-Deputy PI of the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) Instrument aboard the Mars 2020 (Perseverance) rover. She has worked on the Cassini Mission, is a Co-Investigator of the Dragonfly mission to Titan, and is serving multiple roles on Europa Clipper. She was recently appointed as a CIFAR Fellow for the Earth 4D: Subsurface Science and Exploration Program. She previously served as the Ocean Worlds Program Area Scientist for the Planetary Mission Formulation Office, and as supervisor of the Astrobiology and Ocean Worlds Group. Morgan’s research focuses on organic and biomarker detection, through both in situ and remote sensing techniques. She has designed receptor sites for the detection of bacterial spores, the toughest form of life, and developed novel protocols to analyze organic molecules using small, portable microfluidic sensors. Currently Dr. Cable performs laboratory experiments to study the unique organic chemistry of Titan. She and colleagues were the first to discover minerals made exclusively of organics that may exist on Titan’s surface. Morgan also conducts fieldwork in extreme environments on Earth, searching for life in places such as the Atacama Desert, ice fields at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, nutrient-limited lakes at the base of Wind Cave (the densest cave system in the world) in South Dakota, fumarole-generated ice caves of the Mount Meager Volcano in Canada, and lava fields of Iceland.Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor (EELS): A Snakelike Robot to Access the Hard-to-Reach Places of Ocean Worlds and Beyond

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