ARTEMIS Nominal Mission Profile
Cartoon of a nominal ARTEMIS mission beneath the Ross Ice Shelf. (image: Peter Kimball)
We will launch and recover ARTEMIS through a 4′ (1.2 m) diameter drill hole in sea ice, just beyond the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. She will then transit 10 km away from the drill hole, and 10 km back, collecting scientific data and stopping to take water samples along the way. The cartoon above is taken from our Astrobiology Science Conference poster, and shows a nominal ARTEMIS mission. The length of time required for each mission will depend on water currents, but we expect them to last about 10 hours, and we hope to pull off about 15 of them by the end of the year.
The ice overhead means that ARTEMIS cannot simply surface and await rescue in the event of a problem. She must be able to return to the drill hole if anything goes wrong. This mission design places great importance on ARTEMIS’s navigation instruments and software (her ability to find her way back to the drill hole) and entails significant risk. However, this is exactly what an icy moon robot will have to do in order to get its data back to the surface for transmission to earth. Here on Earth, the mission design allows ARTEMIS to maximize her time under the ice collecting valuable data.
Again, it’s one thing to make a pretty picture of a nominal robotic field mission, but it’s quite another to actually pull it off. It’ll be several weeks of environment characterization, in-water testing, and debugging before we’re able to pull off a “nominal mission”.
Reporting by Peter Kimball