A robotic vehicle developed by Georgia Institute of Technology scientists and engineers recently dove to depths never before visited under Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf.

The team deployed (and retrieved) the vehicle through a 12-inch diameter hole. The "IceFin" searched through 20 meters of ice and another 500 meters of water to the sea floor.

Icefin was deployed as a part of the Sub Ice Marine and Planetary–analog Ecosystem (SIMPLE) program, funded by NASA and supported by NSF. The robotic vehicle carried a scientific payload capable of measuring ocean conditions under the ice. Icefin’s readings, and video of the life that thrives in the harsh conditions, will help researchers understand how Antarctica’s ice shelves are changing under warming conditions. Scientists will also be able to examine how organisms thrive in cold and light-free environments.

The technologies developed for Icefin will also assist in the search for life on other planets, namely Europa, a moon of Jupiter. Antarctica’s icy oceans are remarkably similar to Europa’s ice-capped oceans.

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