Anchorage - KTUU NASA is bringing the search for alien life to Alaska, where its Planetary Science through Terrestrial Analogue Research team is studying the Matanuska Glacier.
A NASA robotics systems engineer spends half of his days operating the Curiosity Mars Rover.
Now, he's turning his attention to Alaska to build a wheeled robot capable of navigating the icy alien terrain of Enceladus, one of over 50 moons orbiting Saturn.
Gareth Meirion-Griffith is part of a field scouting team for NASA's PSTAR program. They chose the Matanuska Glacier for its similar composition to the surface of Enceladus. Their goal: to simulate an environment as geographically close to Enceladus as possible.
"Underneath that crust of ice are vast subsurface liquid water oceans,” Meirion-Griffith said. “NASA is in general interested in exploring these places because one thing we know from Earth is that life tends to evolve or survive better when there's an abundance of water."
NASA has not committed to any surface exploration of Enceladus yet but Meirion-Griffith and his team have two more years to develop the robotic navigation technology.
This first year was all about mapping the Matanuska Glacier's surface. Next year, they will return with the robot for live testing.