Environmentally Non-Disturbing Under-ice Robotic ANtarctiC Explorer (ENDURANCE).
This collaborative project involving UIC's departments of Earth and Environmental Science and Computer Science, NASA Ames Research Center, Montana State University and Stone Aerospace will develop an autonomous underwater vehicle capable of generating for the first time, 3-D biogeochemical datasets in the extreme environment of a perennially ice-covered Antarctic dry valley lake. The ENDURANCE will map the under-ice lake dimensions of West Lake Bonney in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, and be equipped to measure various properties of the water column in the entire lake.
The cold desert environment of the dry valleys creates conditions that have frequently been used as an analog for Mars present and past. The presence of liquid water under thick ice covers on early Mars has been suggested as an important possible habitat for early life. This proposed research will allow us to develop a sound technical and scientific basis to search for life in lakes analogous to those found on Mars in the past, and perhaps even under or within the present polar ice caps, and beneath the thick ice cover of the purported Europan ocean.
This three year investigation has been funded by the NASA ASTEP Program (Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets.) The project is led by Peter Doran of the Earth and Environmental Sciences department. The visualization work will be led by Andrew Johnson and performed at UIC's Electronic Visualization Laboratory.