TABLE 4.1 Findings and Recommendations from Rock and Bratina (2004)



1. No fundamental engineering barriers exist that would prohibit entry of a (simple) probe into the lake (although significant engineering development might be required)

1. NSF should task a group to develop these specifications immediately (e.g., an American Society for Microbiology board or committee)

2. Quantifiable specifications that define acceptable levels of contamination do not currently exist and must be generated before detailed engineering efforts can proceed

2. All early missions that penetrate the ice should include an engineering feed forward component designed to collect relevant data

3. Critical data defining the operational environment for instruments (and vehicles) deployed within Lake Vostok are lacking

3. NSF should team with the ocean science community to exploit existing capabilities (e.g., vehicle and sensor technology) wherever possible

4. Significant development will be required to develop an underwater vehicle to deploy within the lake (e.g., through a small-diameter borehole)

4. NSF should team with the ocean science community to develop the capability to perform sample collection using AUVs

5. Significant research and development is required to create the technology required to collect samples at locations remote from a borehole (e.g., the grounding zones)

5. NSF should encourage new and creative approaches to the broad range of technological challenges associated with the exploration of Lake Vostok. Questions include: Are there creative or different ways to access the lake? Are there novel ways to provide long-term power to equipment in the lake? Are there new techniques to assemble a sensing system within the ice or within the lake?

The future technology workshop participants found that another impediment to the planning and design of technologies for subglacial exploration is the lack of knowledge about the aquatic environments (e.g., how corrosive is the water?). As a result, some technologies for more advanced stages of the research may not be able to be developed reliably until after first entry and preliminary data collection occur.


Chemical contaminants could enter a subglacial lake during exploration as liquid constituents of the drilling fluid and as solutes or particulates in that fluid. Direct chemical contamination could also occur from the drilling and sampling apparatus, for example, from water-soluble oils used in metal working during the fabrication of the instruments and equipment and from phthalate ester additives that are used extensively in the plastics industry. The nature and magnitude of chemical contamination from each of these sources will be highly specific to the type of drilling and sampling operation.

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