Deep planetary drills offer a wealth of information to planetary geologists searching for clues to the formation of our Solar System, and to astrobiologists seeking evidence for life beyond Earth. The Planetary Deep Drill is designed to support these science objectives by collecting powder that can be delivered to on-site analysis tools, such as instruments to detect organic materials. It can also contain embedded sensors for in-situ analysis. Such instruments can include microscopy imaging systems, temperature and salinity sensors, Raman Spectroscopy instruments, and luminescence probes for detection of organic compounds.
The Planetary Deep Drill is a wire-line system that can drill hundreds or even thousands of feet deep. An umbilical suspends the system and provides both power and data, so unlike traditional drills that are limited by the length of a drill bit, the Planetary Deep Drill is limited only by the length of the tether. The four-meter Planetary Deep Drill contains all of the motors, electronics and sensors required to operate the drill. The system uses a highly efficient rotary percussive drilling technology, which enables the drill to conserve valuable energy. It can operate on a little as 250 Watts, less than many consumer battery-powered drills.
This system is designed primarily to drill through water-ice at low temperatures, such as conditions at the Mars polar caps, Europa, or Enceladus. By exploring these environments, scientists can hunt for potential signs of life in extreme environments while gaining insight into planetary formation.