Engineers at Astrium UK have successfully tested a ballistic probe by launching it at a 10-tonne block of ice. Hitting the ice at 340m/s and decelerating at approximately 24,000g (peak), the steel probe and its delicate contents survived the impact.
Researchers say the penetrator would be a robust and inexpensive way to land instruments on other worlds.
These might be seismometers to study the interior of Mars, or a miniature organic chemistry laboratory to check for microbial activity on icy Jovian satellites.
Scientists envisage several penetrators being deployed at once, carrying perhaps a network of sensors to widely separated locations in the sub-surface.
Being able to get just a few metres down is key, because if life exists anywhere else in the Solar System, it is likely to be buried away from harsh space radiation.
Now watch this pretty sweet animation of the proposed probe in action...