Someday it may be possible to explore below the icy surface of Jupiter’s sixth-closest moon, Europa, and if this happens, it could be done with a technological descendant of this robotic rover: NASA JPL’s Buoyant Rover for Under-Ice Exploration (BRUIE). Watch this two-wheel floating vehicle drive on the underside of ice in Alaska’s Sukok Lake. From NASA astrobiologist Kevin Hand:

…We think this truly was the first time ever that an underwater, under ice, untethered vehicle has been operated through satellite link… Our work has this wonderful marriage of advancing our understanding of what’s happening on our own planet while simultaneously feeding forward into our exploration of potentially habitable worlds beyond Earth.

For that marriage, exploring Europa makes sense: there may be an ocean below the moon’s thick icy shell, and where there is water, there could be life.

Learn more: Europa’s Underground Ocean Surfaces by Phil Plait, and this excellent corresponding report from National Geographic: The Hunt for Life Beyond Earth.

In the archives: The Top 5 Places to Look for Alien Life, testing NASA JPL’s Curiosity Scarecrow Rover, and Brian Cox’s Favorite Wonder: Saturn’s moon Titan.