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Are we finally going to Europa?


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I just read that Obama's budget includes a large outlay for NASA to plan a mission to Europa.  First we would send a probe to orbit Jupiter and study Europa from a distance (including searching for places to land).  Then, we would send a lander that could potentially uncover the mysteries beneath the ice.  I think the NASA guy said this would start in the mid 2020s. 

"All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there."

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Any space-vehicle that will touchdown on Europa will have to be completely clean and sterile. We - the human-race - must not introduce any of own lifeforms into the Europa environment. This fact has been discussed by scientific engineers for several years now.

I, for one, will be watching this work with extreme interest!

New Skies,

Dave

Edited by Dave In Vermont
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This would be amazing.  I would just like to see some close images of the surface and a rover type of mission.  Surely drilling is far to ambitious in the conventional way.  A device that could warm up and melt its way in would be more compact and manageable.  Even then I'm unsure.  

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Landers etc. on Europa are unfortunately a long, long way off.  The proposed mission for the mid 2020's will be akin to the way Cassini has been analysing Titan, i.e.  the mission will perform a series of Europa fly-bys (I think around 45).  They're not proposing to go into orbit around Europa due to the intense radiation that the probe would be subjected to.

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Yes non contamination is a issue, studies looking at microbes is the harshest environments has indicated that they are far more hardy than we could ever of imagined even living amny miles down in solid rock. So ensuring a completely clean probe could be difficult. 

A drill would have to be really something as at -190 ice has the same properties as solid rock.

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Hmm the problem is simple

* at -190 it's like ice

* a small little drill isn't going to get you anywhere

* a piece of metal at high velocity into the ground isn't either..

* massive pulse of energy form orbit is likely to cause a massive ejection into space.. not good for the planet

In short we don't have sensitive enough sensors to analyse passively..

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We know from gravity measurements made by Galileo that Europa is a differentiated body. The most plausible models of Europa’s interior have an H2O-ice layer of thickness 80-170km.

Europa's surface temperature averages about 110 K (−160 °C; −260 °F) at the equator and only 50 K (−220 °C; −370 °F) at the poles, keeping Europa's icy crust as hard as granite.

It also has roughly 15 miles of solid ice. A mole-like thermal drill designed to cut through the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa could be on a future mission slated for launch in 2020.

Edited by Ronnie67
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