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NASA's potential squid rover is straight out of sci-fi

The space agency is studying the use of a soft, tentacled robot to explore watery moons like Jupiter's Europa.

NASA's squid rover concept might be familiar to sci-fi fans. NASA/Cornell University/NSF

Warning: If you haven't seen "Europa Report," one of the most underrated and scientifically feasible space movies ever, do it now because it's worth your time and because I'm about to spoil it.

NASA plans to spend $100,000 to study the use of a soft, tentacled rover that could someday explore Jupiter's moon Europa and other worlds believed to harbor lakes and oceans.

The funding is part of NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts program, which "aims to turn science fiction into science fact through the development of pioneering technologies." In the case of the soft rover, that aim is certainly true.

Here's how the proposal -- one of 15 selected for initial funding last week -- describes the aquatic robot:

"This rover resembles a squid, with tentacle-like structures that serve both as electrodynamic tethers to harvest power from locally changing magnetic fields and as a means of bio-inspired propulsion...Optionally, the skin of the robot will be a stretchable, electroluminescent display for illuminating the local marine environment, to enable underwater imaging."

If you heeded my warning and watched "Europa Report," then you'll recognize the design of this squid rover as being unsettlingly similar to the alien life form encountered by the astronauts exploring that moon.

NASA is currently moving ahead with plans to send a spacecraft to Europa, but sending a squid submarine hasn't been a public part of that plan. While the concept admittedly has a very long way to go to become reality, perhaps a NASA researcher finally saw the movie and decided it was good idea to fight fire with fire -- or, rather, fight squid with squid.

Is NASA creating its own version of this Hollywood alien? Magnet Releasing / Screenshot by Eric Mack / CNET