In 2022: ESA plans a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa to search for life but the moon harbors many perils

May 25, 2013 SPACEThe new movie, Europa Report offers a compelling look into a future manned space mission to explore Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa, as a prelude to human colonization. The views of Europa in the film are amazingly detailed, and the methods used by the crew to probe the moon and its icy crust appear to be pulled straight out of concepts by NASA and other space agencies for exploring the icy Jovian satellite. Europa has long been a tantalizing target for scientists because its thick icy crust appears to hide a vast ocean of liquid water. Interactions between that ocean and Europa’s tidally heated interior could potentially serve as an energy source for primitive life, if it exists at all on the Jupiter moon. The European Space Agency plans to launch a real-life mission to Europa in 2022 to explore it and several other Jupiter moons as part of the Jupiter Icy moons Explorer mission, nicknamed JUICE. NASA will provide a radar instrument for the JUICE spacecraft to peer beneath Europa’s surface, but the mission will be completely robotic — no astronauts aboard. So it looks as if Wayfare’s “Europa Report” will be the closest humanity comes to a manned mission to Jupiter for the foreseeable future. Let’s hope the next try goes a bit better. –NBC News
Lethal radiation from Jupiter: Europa is thought to have a liquid-water ocean underneath its icy exterior. The access to this liquid-water ocean is a major difficulty, but the abundance of water on Europa is a benefit to any considerations for colonization. Not only can water provide for colonists’ drinking needs, it also can be broken down to provide breathable oxygen. Oxygen is also believed to have accumulated from the radiolysis of the ice on the surface that has been convected into the subsurface ocean and may prove sufficient for oxygen-using marine life. The colonization of Europa presents numerous difficulties. One is the high level of radiation from Jupiter’s radiation belt, which is about 10 times as strong as Earth’s Van Allen radiation belts. As Europa receives 540 rem of radiation per day (500 rem is a fatal dose). A human would not survive at or near the surface of Europa for long without significant radiation shielding. Colonists on Europa would have to descend beneath the surface when Europa is not protected by Jupiter’s magnetotail, and stay in subsurface habitats. This would allow colonists to use Europa’s ice sheet to shield themselves from radiation. Another problem is that the surface temperature of Europa normally rests at −170 °C (103 K) (-275°F). However, the fact that liquid water is believed to exist below Europa’s icy surface, along with the fact that colonists would spend much of their time under the ice sheet in order to shield themselves from radiation, may somewhat mitigate the problems associated with low surface temperatures. The low gravity of Europa may also present challenges to colonization efforts. The effects of low gravity on human health are still an active field of study, but can include symptoms such as loss of bone density, loss of muscle density, and a weakened immune system. Astronauts in Earth orbit have remained in microgravity for up to a year and more at a time. Effective countermeasures for the negative effects of low gravity are well-established, particularly an aggressive regimen of daily physical exercise. The variation in the negative effects of low gravity as a function of different levels of low gravity are not known, since all research in this area is restricted to humans in zero gravity. The same goes for the potential effects of low gravity on fetal and pediatric development. It has been hypothesized that children born and raised in low gravity would not be well adapted for life under the higher gravity of Earth. It is also speculated that alien organisms may exist on Europa, possibly in the water underlying the moon’s ice shell. If this is true, human colonists may come into conflict with harmful microbes, or aggressive native life forms. More-recent studies have indicated that the action of solar radiation on the surface of Europa might produce oxygen, which could be pulled down into the subsurface ocean by upwelling of the interior. If this process occurs, Europa’s subsurface ocean could have an oxygen content equal to or greater than that of the Earth’s, possibly providing a home to more complex life. –Wikipedia
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14 Responses to In 2022: ESA plans a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa to search for life but the moon harbors many perils

  1. tonic says:

    Europa is without doubt a fascinating moon. Its like a wrapped up present that you just want to rip open to see whats inside. A manned mission to it, would probably be the riskiest ever.
    Nasa to me at least, are kinda cool. they have proved themselves many times on the Mars missions. And outside of their ridiculous secrecy department, if any one could pull this off, they can.

  2. Dennis E. says:

    Too soon to go for a manned mission. Perhaps several robot missions first. A priority need is to establish a human presence (colony) on the surface of Mars first to ease the stress on the earths resources and to find resources for use here on earth.
    I know some of you don’t believe I wrote this, but I did.
    Oh yes, will have to get through World war III first, or IV as some believe.

  3. Irene C says:

    A trip to Europa. How romantic. And right by some radiation. What a wonderful energy source. Never mind that it’s lethal. I just want to know, if they’re so intent on colonizing other places in space, what’s wrong with Mars? If they want that to be a success, it won’t happen overnight and it won’t happen by 2022. I believe this is just someone’s pipe dream. Just saying…

  4. John says:

    This will never happen. Why? Because the world is going to hell in a hand basket. The Western part of American will be a full blown desert in 13 years. Economies around the world will fail. The conflict between religious zealots and the rest of the world will only keep on getting worse. The problems of pollution are ever increasing. A world wide pandemic will more than likely take place in the next 13 years. And all of the above will easily take down the electrical grid. And, that is just a few scenarios that will make it impossible for a nation to spend that much money, time, and manpower to send a rocket to Europa which may or may not even be
    successful. I think civilization has reached its peak, and now we are on a descending path back into the jungle from whence we arose.

  5. Moriah says:

    Man will never succeed in space – it’s futility of futility.

    “The Heavens are for Hashem but the earth He has given to mankind.”

    Psalm 115

  6. Kajajuk says:

    Try living year round in/on Antarctica first or within the Arctic ocean, sort of like practice…

  7. kennycjr says:

    spend that much money? what’s amazing about NASA, and has always been, is how much they do with such little money. it’s my understanding that it costs more for one fighter jet, possibly even more for one drone hellfire missile than NASA’s entire budget for a year. imho, it’s absolutely ridiculous that even NASA is being hit with mandatory budget cuts, course the same goes for the weather service.

    • James says:

      There is a huge “off-budget” or black budget supporting space activities. The unmanned shuttle was just recently reported on, you can bet there is MUCH MORE that include technology you can’t even imagine.

  8. Puma says:

    I believe Europa has extraterrestrial micro-organisms in the water and on the ice. If humans comes here, they ( humans) will be victims of contamination. Never touch the extraterrestrial micro-organisms also never take them to earth.

  9. niebo says:

    “It is also speculated that alien organisms may exist on Europa, possibly in the water underlying the moon’s ice shell. If this is true, human colonists may come into conflict with harmful microbes, or AGGRESSIVE native life forms.”

    Piranha starfish?

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