Life On Europa? NASA Planning A Mission To Find Out

Life On Europa? NASA Planning A Mission To Find Out

NASA's plans to study Jupiter's moon Europa are underway, with a projected launch date in the mid-2020s.

Science has long suspected that extraterrestrial life must exist in the universe, but good luck finding out for sure. Most planets and stellar bodies in our solar system - while very interesting in their own right - show few signs that life is thriving at all. One rare exception is Europa, a moon of Jupiter that might just have an absolutely massive subsurface ocean filled with life forms. Of course, since Europa is 628 million kilometers from Earth, swinging by to find out isn't easy. But NASA is moving ahead with mission plans all the same, with a projected launch sometime in the mid-2020s.

The mission was discussed at this week's State of NASA address, where administrator Charles Bolden elaborated on the proposed 2016 budget. "Looking to the future," Bolden said, "we're planning a mission to explore Jupiter's fascinating moon Europa, selecting instruments this spring and moving toward the next phase of our work." As detailed in the budget, NASA plans to dedicate a total of $30 million to the initiative. For context, the Mars Curiosity Rover cost a grand total of $2.5 billion.

NASA's likely mission plan is to build a probe called the Europa Clipper, which would orbit Jupiter and make 45 flybys of the moon. It's not the only route NASA could take - the space agency did develop plans for a Europa Lander back in 2011. The trouble is, a radiation field near Europa runs the risk of damaging the probe if it made a permanent landing.

If all goes well, NASA would launch its Europa mission in the mid-2020s, but it won't be the only space agency to do so. The European Space Agency is developing its own mission - the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) - to launch in 2022. Not only would that increase the chances of confirming life on Europa, it also might signal one of the first honest-to-goodness space races since the Moon Landing.

In short, within the next decade we might finally know if alien life exists with our solar system. What a great time to be excited for space travel!

Source: NASA, via CNET

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Five minutes ago I had a joke about ESA, NASA and Europa. It's gone now :(

This article is a little sensationalistic. For starters, ESA's mission is not going to look for life, it's just going to take a look at the planet's conditions. And not even below the ice crust. It even says so in the article you linked to. The same counts for the NASA mission, they're not going to try to find out whether there's life at all, just how the conditions are.

Any actual mission to honestly find life will have to burrow itself through the crust and investigate the crust in earnest. And that's not going to happen for quite some time to come. Doesn't mean that these missions aren't exciting, but I'd suggest rewriting the article or at least the title a little to properly reflect the nature of this mission. A budget of 30 million is remarkably cheap, and that should also set our expectations of NASA's mission. Still, taking any closer look at this fascinating moon is very exciting.

I would hope a geeky website like The Escapist would report scientific news a little more honest and intelligent than most other sources. And come on, a space race? No, not even remotely. If anything I see these missions working in tandem.

Yeah... good luck managing to get beneath the icy surface down to that ocean with a probe. Maybe twenty years from now, but not ten.

Oh, I don't know... Given enough power, a probe should be able to melt its way though the ice, spooling out a cable behind itself, to a transmitter on the surface, and just let the hole freeze right back, above. No need to bother with complicated drilling operations, if you don't expect to retreive the probe, afterwards. :P

We may not wish to introduce ourselves to the Europans by dumping a quarter of a ton of radioative isotopes into their biosphere, mind... ;)

EDIT: "Attempt no landings there", btw...

Europa has long been considered one of the best bets to find life of some kind due to the fact that it has both a massive water ocean and is still geologically active.

There is a long ongoing hypothesis that life on Earth actually began under similar circumstances through abiogenesis at deep sea thermal vents.

Of course, we'll only know if we look :D

ALL THESE WORLDS
ARE YOURS EXCEPT
EUROPA
ATTEMPT NO
LANDING THERE

Aside from the whole "malevolent monolith" scenario, I can't imagine the kind of life that could exist there outside of bacteria or a type of plankton. Europa might be a future refueling station in 2150, but beyond that, no real purpose in going there.

hopefully this wont end up like the europa report

seris:
hopefully this wont end up like the europa report

From some reason the monster from that film reminded me of Bioshock; it's probably all the lights on it. Of course as fun as finding an under-water city beneath the ice would be, right now there's only the slim possibility of bacteria, never mind fully evolved life.

Then again, that radiation field...

Alar:
Yeah... good luck managing to get beneath the icy surface down to that ocean with a probe. Maybe twenty years from now, but not ten.

I've noticed that though every development of a thing is through the long multi-stepped series of little inventions to make a big thing (Thank you, Connections.), human technology has a way of surging forwards, rather than always going at a steady pace. Some of us are crazy mad scientists, I swear. More and more technology from like science fiction is coming in. Cellphones surpass Star Trek communicators, prosthetics are ending up like Ghost in the Shell, particle beam weapons and drills are becoming easier to make, cloning technology is only being held back by morality, data storage through DNA is possible, there is an early form of nanotechnology in existence, and so on. Punching a hole in the ice for a probe isn't the problem, only getting such equipment there in one piece. I am looking forward to this.

Somebloke:
Oh, I don't know... Given enough power, a probe should be able to melt its way though the ice, spooling out a cable behind itself, to a transmitter on the surface, and just let the hole freeze right back, above. No need to bother with complicated drilling operations, if you don't expect to retreive the probe, afterwards. :P

We may not wish to introduce ourselves to the Europans by dumping a quarter of a ton of radioative isotopes into their biosphere, mind... ;)

EDIT: "Attempt no landings there", btw...

I don't know if cable is a good idea.
As far as I know ice on Europa isn't exactly solid and unchangeable
It shifts and moves like ground on Earth.
What would happen with said cable if suddenly few ice layers decided to change position?
Nothing good I guess.
Much safer option would be leaving capsules along the way that would re-transmit information from one to another until reaching surface then transmitting info to orbit and then sending information to us.

blackrave:
...
I don't know if cable is a good idea.
As far as I know ice on Europa isn't exactly solid and unchangeable
It shifts and moves like ground on Earth.
...

Ah yes... Ol' Jupiter is kneading the poor thing like a stress ball. Good point. :7

so let's fast forward to 2030 for a second and say life is discovered on Europa. Will the name of the planet be changed or will these new beings be called Europeans?
Because if that's the case I know a place that's full of Europeans that's much closer than a moon of Jupiter

Somebloke:

blackrave:
...
I don't know if cable is a good idea.
As far as I know ice on Europa isn't exactly solid and unchangeable
It shifts and moves like ground on Earth.
...

Ah yes... Ol' Jupiter is kneading the poor thing like a stress ball. Good point. :7

Yeah, just imagine if they'll choose cable and ice layer shift actually will happen
Painfully expensive failure (and I'm not talking about finances only here)

Anyway, is some sort of data tunnel really necessary?
As far as I know long radio waves can go through the planet
What's the catch then?

blackrave:
...
Anyway, is some sort of data tunnel really necessary?
As far as I know long radio waves can go through the planet
What's the catch then?

I am not a HAM, but fairly certain long wave radio is channeled through the atmosphere, much like the light in an optic fibre (if that's a familiar parallel), rounding the earth in that manner, and very quickly absorbed by any mass.
FM radio, meanwhile, whilst having a much more limited range than LW, runs on short wavelengths, specifically because they can better penetrate walls... 'though it still doesn't take much to attenuate and lose reception.

There is a matter of power and antenna aiming, too, but if we're using nuclear heat to melt through the ice anyway, I suppose we have plently to keep a biig thermoelectric pile going, for our high-powered radio needs. :P

All AFAIK, mind - I found myself too lazy to research before writing this reply. :P

Will everyone end up frozen and eaten at the end, like in the movie?

 

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