LSU scientists have secured nearly $3 million in NASA funding to develop a cryobot that will use lasers to melt through miles-thick Antarctic ice to search for life in lakes and oceans below.

Research from the Sub-glacial Polar Ice Navigation, Descent and Lake Exploration crybot, known as SPINDLE, will help develop a system that could be used in life-detection missions to one of the ice-covered ocean worlds of the outer solar system.

LSU geologist Peter Doran and Stone Aerospace founder Bill Stone have assembled a diverse team of polar and planetary scientists to develop the ice-penetrating system. The first part of the system will melt through the ice with powerful lasers. The system also will include a hovering autonomous underwater vehicle, or HAUV, that will do reconnaissance, search for life and collect samples. Once the information has been gathered, the underwater vehicle will return to the cryobot, link to a satellite and transmit its data and possibly return samples to the surface.

“Essentially, we are trying to build a mini-scientist to go out and explore places where humans cannot go,” Doran said.