3 May 2007:
HQ NASA has notified Dr. Peter Doran (ENDURANCE Principal Investigator) at University of Illinois, Chicago that it intends to fund the ENDURANCE project (2007–2010). ENDURANCE, a follow-on to DEPTHX, stands for Environmentally Non-Disturbing Under-ice Robotic ANtarctiC Explorer. While Doran will lead the scientific aspects of the project, Stone Aerospace will provide the research vehicle and operational support. ENDURANCE will be a joint NASA/National Science Foundation sponsored project to use a modified DEPTHX AUV to perform the first ever autonomous underwater navigation and life form/geochemical sampling of Antarctica’s sub-surface lakes. Two expeditions are planned in 2008 and 2009. Due to the extremely sensitive, pristine nature of these lakes, great care and sanitizing will be required to perform the missions in this region of great unknown. Once complete, ENDURANCE will have accomplished most of the confidence building and technology/scientific demonstrations to proceed to the even more challenging, ultimate goal of exploring for extraterrestrial life on Jupiter’s moon, Europa or maybe Mars. Exploring Europa will require penetrating miles of ice vertically to get to sub-surface seas. To do this will require a nuclear-tipped melt probe that needs to be developed. Funds for the Europa project are currently not available in NASA.