What Would We Want to Know?
HAL-9000: [message relayed from monolith] All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there. Use them together. Use them in peace. ~ 2010 Space Odyssey
NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft flew past Europa in1979. In the mid-to-late 1990s, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft made its close flyby. Most of what we know about this icy moon of Jupiter has come from these two NASA missions.
From images sent back to Earth, NASA has seen a fractured, ice-covered world with an ocean beneath its surface. But what if we could land on Europa for a more personal examination? What would we want to know? That’s the question from NASAs latest news release from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
A NASA-appointed science definition team set about answering that very question. Their consensus of questions was recently shared in Astrobiology Magazine.
“If one day humans send a robotic lander to the surface of Europa, we need to know what to look for and what tools it should carry,” said Robert Pappalardo, the study’s lead author, based at NASA’s JPL, Pasadena, Calif.
JPL’s press release states: The paper was authored by scientists from a number of other NASA centers and universities, including the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md.; University of Colorado, Boulder; University of Texas, Austin; and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The team found the most important questions clustered around composition: what makes up the reddish “freckles” and reddish cracks that stain the icy surface? What kind of chemistry is occurring there? Are there organic molecules, which are among the building blocks of life?
If they asked you, what would you want to know about this intriguing moon? This type of consensus paper is often the catalyst for developing new NASA missions. One day in the near future we maybe watching a new spacecraft launched to mimic the Mars Rover. Perhaps the “Europa Rover” can discover the answers about this cold icy moon.
You can see more images from the JPL on their Photojournal website.
Or learn more about NASAs Solar System Exploration. You can view mission statements, read about the accomplishments, review images and discover great teaching tools for kids.