DEPTHX to Europa by 2019

070228_depthx_hmed_12p.standard.jpgAt the beginning of March, DSN reported on DEPTHX.

The picture is of DEPTHX. It weighs about 1.2 tons, shaped like a mushroom, and can navigate itself into your bedroom. Just kidding. Not really. It can swim through a water-filled cavern creating its own map. It has already explored La Pilita, a 115 meter sink. So be weary not to let your house fill up with water.

This week, DEPTHX explores the 1,000ft deep Zacaton Lake in Mexico, the world’s deepest sinkhole. The goal is to both comprehensively 3-D map the Zacaton but collect water samples as well. However exciting this may be, the plan for this AUV (unmanned, untethered, Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) is to explore the deep sea under the crust of frozen ice on Jupiter’s moon Europa by 2019.  Daily mission updates can be found at DEPTHX website.

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

3 Replies to “DEPTHX to Europa by 2019”

  1. Great stuff.A few questions. How thick is the crust; how much does it vary? Will a separate vehicle be necessary to punch a hole in the crust for safe entry? Will a more sophisticated AUV be available (same size and weight) by launch-time?

  2. All great questions. Unfortunately don’t know answers to any of them. I believe a separate vehicle will be needed to drill.

  3. Hey, you may be interested to know that a science writer from the University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences is posting field updates from Mexico on the DEPTHX mission to Zacaton. You can read them at

Comments are closed.