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Space Science

Another Look at Life On The Jovian moons 101

Posted by Hemos
from the packing-my-bags dept.
dlkf writes "CNN is talking about the possibility of life on several of Jupiter's moons. The researchers theorize that it is possible for Callisto, Ganymede and Europa to be able to build up enough oxygen in their subsurface salt water oceans to support life."
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Another Look at Life On The Jovian moons

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    >>God exists. - Knowing that we can assume that..

    please prove conclusively. Tossing around a book of fairy tails (that by the way declares that the earth is flat, the sun goes around the earth, that dinosaurs are impossible, and that women are subservent to men, among other nonsense) isn't going to get you far. Neither will declaring that you saw the virgin mary in your burrito at Taco Bell.

    It's fun to play make believe....

    ". . . So many things were testing his faith. There was the Bible, of course, but the Bible was a book, and so were Bleak House, Treasure Island, Ethan Frome, and The Last of the Mohicans. Did it indeed seem probable, as he had once overheard Dunbar ask, that the answers to the riddles of creation would be supplied by people too ignorant to understand the mechanics of rainfall?"
    -Joseph Heller (Catch 22)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Hydric acid also works and Dihydrogen Monoxide may be another possibility.

  • NASA spends millions researching astrology really? So thats why all the horoscopes in the nations papers are so accurate! And you are calling it a waste of money?!
  • would be to launch the Jupiter mission *from* Mars, once we have a base built up there. it's closer, and has less gravity. Hell, we could even launch from Phobos or Deimos.
  • I'm no biology/space major, but isn't it a bit presumptous to expect extraterristerial life to rely on photosynthesis, even within our own galaxy?

    No, it's not presumptuous. Sunlight is one of the easiest sources of energy to exploit and pretty much guarenteed to be available on any planet that isn't frozen solid. Sure, there are other possible sources of enegry (thermo and chemosynthesis come to mind), but expecting life on some planet to have evolved these while passing up on photosynthesis entirely is like expecting the roulette wheel to come up 27 27 times in a row. Sure, it could happen, and given a large enough universe, probably has, but for every planet with life but no photosynthesis there are probably a million with it. (Note: 90% of statistics are made up. :)

    Who says the rules that apply on Earth apply everywhere?

    Err, that's actually one of the three basic axioms of science (the second as I learned them):

    [1] Nature is lawful -- things happen in accord with the laws of nature. Since science is in the business of discovering the laws of nature, we presuppose this -- it would be pointless to try to discover the laws of nature if they don't exist.

    [2] The laws of nature are universal -- they apply any place, any time. If this were not true, the scientific method would be useless, since experienments would not tell you anything except what was true in that lab at that time -- they would tell you nothing about what to expect tomorrow or in Miami.

    [3] The laws of nature are understandable by us. This has to be true or the whole scientific enterprise is pointless and doomed to failure.

    Those are the axioms of science. If any one of them is not true, science is an utter pointless waste of time. If you don't believe it's an utterly pointless waste of time, you probably have faith in these principles.

    So, who says the rules that apply on Earth apply everywhere? Science does. To say otherwise is to be literally unscientific...

    --

  • I don't understand why we always assume that the life must be oxygen-based.

    Err, we don't. We just get excited when we discover oxygen because we know of lifeforms that use oxidants, whereas anything else doesn't really mean anything to us...

    --

  • Why is it that they always point to oxygen and/or water as proof of life?

    Huh? Who is "they"? I know of no scientist who has ever claimed that life on some other world has been proven, much less used the existence of oxygen and/or water as the basis for this "proof".

    Isn't it possible for life to exist without one or the other? (I mean, just because we need it is not proof.)

    Sure, but they would need some sort of alternative biochemistry. This is possible, but when we discover worlds where our own biochemistry is possible, we find this a lot more exciting...

    Anaerobic organisms exist on Earth, why not elsewhere?

    Anaerobic organism on Earth still require oxygen, they just don't require molecular oxygen (O2). Getting by with no oxygen at all (meaning not only no O2 but no other molecules requiring the element oxygen in their composition) may or may not be possible, but would certainly be quite a bit more difficult. Kind of like trying to get by without carbon -- in theory it could be done, hence speculation into silicon based life, but in fact carbon and oxygen are some of the most versatile elements (chemically speaking) in existence -- getting by without them would be pretty damn hard...

    --

  • I think we spent more money making the movie Waterworld than we did making the failed Mars mission. They both bombed, but I consider the latter money better spent...

    --

  • Has anyone noticed that when NASA needs funding for some project these days that rocks are found that somehow found their way to the earth.

    Well, considering that NASA always needs funding, any statement of the form "When NASA needs funding for some project these days, X occurs." is going to be true. For example, "Has anyone noticed that when NASA needs funding for some project these days that hurricanes start forming in the Atlantic?" This observation, although certainly true, does not prove that Atlantic hurricanes are caused by NASA scientists seeking funding. Correlation does not indicate causality.

    These are identifyed by their particular structure and composition based on our knowledge of the indegionus rocks known to exist on these moons and planets, even though no one has ever been there or seen one, and no samples have ever been brought back by any means.

    First of all, it's flat out false that we've never seen rocks on other planets. In fact, I think at this point there are no rocky planets that we haven't at least seen the rocks of. True, we haven't brought any samples back except from the Moon, but you don't need to bring a sample back to determine chemical composition. Learn to use a spectroscope...

    I might find a Jupiter moon rock in my back yard. It will have been tossed here by some astoriod collision. How will I identify the markings?

    Look for a small tag on the bottom labeled "Made on Jupiter". It's painfully obvious at this point you know so little about astrophysics that you couldn't possibly have a reasonable opinion on the subject -- for your information, no, it is not possible for you to find a rock from Jupiter in your backyard, tosssed here by some asteroid collision -- any asteroid that somehow managed to make it through Jupiter's impressive atmosphere without being incinerated completely would splash into an ocean of liquid hydrogen deep enough to sink most planets in -- no Jovian rocks would be tossed anywhere during this splashdown.

    --

  • Whoops! My apologies -- I missed the "moon" in "Jupiter moon rock" while reading your message. You wouldn't find one from Europa, as it's icy and would just melt, but I suppose you could find one from another of Jupiter's moons, one of the rocky ones. My bad...

    --

  • One species toxic poison is another's basic building block. Ten million years from now, the species on Earth may bemoan the fact that we didn't produce and release enough DDT into the ecosphere... :)

    --

  • Anaerobic life is more primitive, and therefore more likely to be found there.
  • Are there any microbes that could be injected into Venus' clouds that would transform Venus' greenhouse gases into benign gases (or fix them out of the atmosphere into solid or liquid compounds that would rain down on the surface)?

    What are Venus' greenhouse gases anyway?

    Sorely ignorant of Venusian atmospheric chemistry,
    GPS
  • That's just life vaguely as we know it. They talk about chlorophyll and alternate metabolisms that we know here, but there could be other ways. Complexity theory suggests that any system with the right rate of change and stimulus (energy) could generate life.

    Mars doesn't have it. Mars is too frozen. Gas giants probably don't have it, being too chaotic. Anything liquid is a good place to start. Saturn's moon may be too energy poor, despite it's oceans and geysers. I bet Jupiter's moons are just right.

    Of course, that's just my information and speculation, I could be wrong.
  • ...since the odds against it forming there make ``astronomical'' look humdrum (try worse than 1 in 10E300), and we have nothing here that would live in that stew.

    The implication in these articles is that if the spot concerned ``could support'' life, then life would spontaneously form there, as if it were no more complex than snowflakes. That's like claiming that where international airports exist, aircraft are sure to form, only more so - your average jetliner is much, much simpler than a ``simple'' one-celled lifeform.

    Think about it.

  • I'd say that with these discoveries, the chance of us finding life (even primordial life) is getting higher. I remember seeing an experiment where they dumped a bunch of elementary gasses and compounds into a tube, heated it up, electrified it on occasion and ended up with a number of important amino acids. Not life, but at least a hint that DNA (or some other way of reproduction) might be a state that matter can fall into fairly easily, given good initial conditions.
  • by cpeterso (19082) on Friday June 22, 2001 @03:20PM (#131646) Homepage

    maybe your god created life on other planets after the bible had been written.
  • by Cujo (19106) on Friday June 22, 2001 @03:04PM (#131647) Homepage Journal

    Not so.

    The radiation environment on Europa is terrible. It's no place for routine operations. It will probably never be directly explored by humans.

    Furthermore, navagating safely through the asteroid belt is really no problem. It's been done by 7-8 spacecraft(NEAR [jhuapl.edu] dipped into it when flying by Mathilde) to date without hazard. From SF movies we have this image of an asteroid belt as being a dense stream of little rocks requiring frequent twists and turns to avoid, but in fact they are millions of klicks apart, and the chances of hitting one that's too small to be discovered is effectively zero.

  • by cje (33931) on Friday June 22, 2001 @04:35PM (#131648) Homepage
    You're correct when you say that the Bible does not state that there are life on other planets. However, the Bible also says nothing about televisions or microwave ovens, but we have those today, don't we? I think the point is that just because the Bible doesn't explicitly say that there are extraterrestrial civilizations doesn't mean that they don't exist, only that the Bible is silent on that point.

    Friends, I think the facts point to the existence of at least 59 extraterrestrial civilizations. I submit that all life .. whether it is Earth-based or not .. is cursed by sin. Because of this, all life is in need of salvation from that sin. We know from historical record (the Bible) that the Lord Jesus Christ spent 33 years cleansing this planet of sin. Because the Bible is inerrant, we must assume that 33 years is the exact amount of time required to purge the sin of a planet. (After all, if it were more or less, that would imply an imperfect Christ .. something that is not allowed by Scripture.)

    We also know that Jesus pledged to return one day. So far, He hasn't. This means that he is most likely purging other civilizations of sin. Christ died 1,970 years ago; assuming that He is not bound by the speed of light, that gives Him enough time to purge 59 planets of sin. (If he is limited by lightspeed, things get complicated, but there is no reason to assume that such an arbitrary natural law applies to God.)

    The point is that with each passing year that Jesus does not return, the odds for extraterrestrial life go up. This is a good thing. I for one am excited about the prospect of life among the stars, and I am convinced that it exists. Don't let an overly-narrow interpretation of Scripture dictate a purely ethnocentric worldview to you; it will only hold you back.
  • Of course there's life on Europa! Don't you remember that documentary, uhhh, whatzit called...the one that ended with that message...oh yeah.

    ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS EXCEPT FOR EUROPA.

    MAKE NO LANDINGS THERE.

    Yeah. Incontrivertible proof. So there :P.
  • Don't forget that a lot of NASA's work is to do with aeronautics, not space. Things like new materials for construction of aircraft, quieter & more powerful engines, accident prevention & other useful stuff. Even if you eliminated all of NASA's space commitments, some of that 14 billion would remain.
  • Wouldn't people be crushed to death if we sent them to Jupiter because of the gravity? Not to mention it's basically just gas so there wouldnt' be much to land on.
  • by alteridem (46954) on Friday June 22, 2001 @03:07PM (#131652) Homepage
    NASA are planning to send a probe, the Europa Orbiter [nasa.gov] to study Europa in 2003, it should arrive in 2007.

    The discovery of life on Europa would more or less confirm the ubiquity of life. If microbes were found on Mars, they could have originated on Earth and moved to Mars (or vice versa), but the chances are low indeed (although admittedly not zero) of Earth and Europan life having a common origin.

    Having said that...

    The Vostok life forms show only that life can exist in such environments; it says nothing about life forming there. It may well be possible for existing life to adapt to a shitty environment (from our POV), but it would, to my untrained eye, be far more difficult for life to start there.

  • Instead of waisting so much money on obsolete missions to places, we won't be able to travel to, I say these scientist should focus on a way to breathe new life into Silicon Valley [slashdot.org]
  • Where the hell is "Jupitor"???? I know that Jupiter is the fifth planet out from the Sun, but what star does Jupitor orbit? Since it's not in our solar system, it would probably take millenia, not just years.
  • The linked-to article discusses alternatives to photosynthesis as an energy source for life in these moons.

    Not one of the alternatives mentions undersea volcanoes. There are many species here on earth (both unicellular and multicellular) that rely on volcanoes on the ocean floor ('black smokers') as an energy source. This seems a lot more likely than some strange radioactive phosphorous (or was it potassium) isotope.

    It has been proven that other bodies in the solar system are volcanically active like the earth, so how did they miss this possibility?
  • NASA has a $14billion/yr budget to pay for all its programs right now. Not just space launches, everything. Remember - It's National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA gets publicity (which it needs to generate funding) through big space launches, but a large portion of their funding goes to running such things as research into weather and new aircraft techlogies to make flying easier and safer. The one thing that we must have gets very little. Whether we like it or not, we need to get off this planet. We know for certain that Earth has been hit by asteroids before, and that it will be again. Right now, all of our eggs (figuratively and literally) are in one basket. Because of the shortsighted thinking of "Solve our problems NOW!", we are dooming ourselves. As for it not being fair, nothing is. But, to paraphrase J. Michael Straczynski, imagine how much worse life would be if it were fair, and every bad thing that happened to you happened because you deserved it. And with regard to "preventing another Columbine", the answer is simple - stop treating children as adults. They aren't. They need their parents to be parents. If parents would take their job seriously, not plunk their child in front of a TV. There is no substitute for a parent being involved with their children. Take responsibility, for fuck's sake! The schools are there to impart facts, wisdom and morals must come from the parents. In summary, NASA is doing far more than it is percieved as doing, and every project has payback. Problems don't disappear when money gets thrown at them, all that does is create new problems. For the rest - life isn't fair. Get over it.
  • by EXTomar (78739) on Friday June 22, 2001 @05:43PM (#131657)
    Why spend all of this money to if life might exist on Jovian moons?

    General advancement of chemical science. So far our only frame of reference for life is energy from the Sun + water + minerals. It is possible that something exists there that doesn't follow this chemical chain. Who knows what radically different chemistry can do?

    Advancement in communications. Tracking and communicating with something that takes more than an hour to talk to isn't easy. Also sending a message back isn't exactly trivial either. Improvements in this can help improve your cell phone coverage.

    Advancement in hardened semiconductors, stuff necessary to survive the huge and intense electromagnetic field that surrounds Jupiter can make stable computer parts. Not to mention power is a premium on a robot like that. Building hardened low power electronics can have applications for things where we can't afford failure(think air planes).

    Its dark out there. You can't just strap a Handicam on the side of it and expect to get a decent picture. Improved techniques for taking pictures in low light might help make better digitial cameras for us here.

    How about just for the sake of **doing it**? Yes we have problems here. Throwing more money at them might fix things. But you know what? Money doesn't fix everything either.
  • There is definately life in Europe. I should know, I live there.

    Oh, Europa.... Never mind.

    /L

  • I think at times like this, we should all heed the sage advice of Jack Handey:
    Whether they find life there or not, I think Jupiter should be considered an enemy planet.
  • by cybrpnk (94636) on Friday June 22, 2001 @06:08PM (#131660)
    And if there isn't any life on Jupiter's moons, we can go out and start a party of our own... Recently, bacterial ecosystems have been discovered in Earth's clouds [spaceref.com]. This opens the possibility of using balloons on Venus [nasa.gov] to inject heat and acid loving bacteria [icm.uu.se] into Venus' cloud droplets [wisc.edu] at 40-50 Km. Let's start colonizing space today!
  • Wouldn't people be crushed to death if we sent them to Jupit[SLAP]

    No one said anything about sending anyone to Jupiter.

    I know Slashdot readers have an aversion to reading the linked stories, but refusing to even pay attention to the summary before posting is just pathetic.

    -Legion

  • It has to do with distance boy. It takes a few months to go to mars (I forget how many) but it takes a few years (i think) to get to get to jupiter. We being human like instant gratification so we send lots of cheaper probes to the planet near to us.

    This also has practical implications for getting further away from earth. If probes got to start at mars for the trip to jupiter they would take significantly less time. As I see it we will move out from earth in bite sized hops rather than it great bounds.

  • by mr_gerbik (122036) on Friday June 22, 2001 @02:46PM (#131663)
    NASA scientists believe there might possibly be life on any large rock in the universe that might possibly have water and/or an oxygen supply that NASA has cannot confirm.

    Sources say that in the near future, during another slow media week for NASA, they will reveal the name of one of these rocks that couple possibly have water water that might support life.

    -gerbik
  • by mr_gerbik (122036) on Friday June 22, 2001 @02:52PM (#131664)
    "It also might be possible to terraform these moons to be much more earth-like."

    Yes.. all we need to do is initiate the Genesis project on one of the moons and we will have a great place for refueling and a new Spock!
  • http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,27849,00.html

    Lets all have a moment of silence for a great actor.

    Thank you.

  • If we had billions in *extra* money lying around, and were looking to blow it on something, that'd be fine.

    But in the real world, education is being cut, law enforcement is under staffed, and we are spending billions on rockets that do nothing. Private business can and will pick up the slack where needed.

    It's too bad the reality is unpopular here, and will be silenced by people who don't agree. I'd mod your post up if I could.

    ________

  • by AxsDeny (152142)
    "The researchers theorize that it is possible for Callisto, Ganymede and Europa to be able to build up enough oxygen in their subsurface salt water oceans to support life." Whoever said that oxygen was neccessary to support life?
  • yeah, Al Gore could invent life on other worlds
  • When somebody says that we should go to Tau Ceti, do you think they mean that we should fly up and try to land on the star? Same thing here. What's meant is that we should send people to Jupiter's moons.
  • Hypotheses such as this provide even more reason for us as Humans to spread forth an information-gathering web composed of probes and satellites everywhere. The more data we collect, the better picture of what is really out there we'll have.
    And you're a lot better off with a squillion tiny probes than One Big Manned Mission.

    Sending people is great for propaganda (c.f. the entire Moon race business) but not the best way to get information.

    Sending stacks of expendable, cheap probes gives you loads more information per unit currency, and multiple redundancy for when things go wrong.

    The planned manned mission to Mars is a bit bonkers. Several months travel time each way, in the most inhospitable medium imaginable, i.e. space. Cooped up in a tiny spacecraft? No space chicks? ;-p [bbc.co.uk]

    Place your bets:
    1. Crew returns back from Mars, having found sod all, to resoundingly unenthusiastic 'woo' sounds from the world at large.
    2. Technical failure kills everyone (en-route or marooned on Mars)
    3. Crew member flips, disaster follows.

    NASA had some funky ideas for self-replicating machines back in the 70s, which would build mines/refineries/factories on the Moon, producing more machines to build more mines/factories etc., and having enough left over to send back to Earth/build bases for humans to take over afterwards. An application of artificial life, but you have to worry slightly that it doesn't go all Darwinian on you (a mistake in replication leading to removal of the 'override off switch' facility makes a 'fitter' organism in the sense that it has one less way to be killed off).

    </random_ramblings>
  • I'd think that we'd have a trip to Mars before a trip to jupitor anyways. The moons close. I've heard that a Mars mission would be 8 months at a minimum. Jupitor would take YEARS. We're going to want to do some serious stress testing first...

    Firethorn
  • It has to do with the alignment of the planets. We want to launch so we have the shortest intercept with mars. Mars and Earth have different orbital speeds, so they vary from 'right next to each other' to 'on opposite sides of the sun'. I've heard that probes could take from between 6-18 months to reach Mars, depending on the positions.

    Firethorn
  • Sorry, Yeesh. So I misspelled Jupiter. I've been up WAY too long. At least I only have an hour left.

    Firethorn
  • $200-300 sounds fishy to me

    Lets' see. According to
    http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/facts/HTML/FS- 00 3-HQ.html

    Nasa's 2001 budget is 14 billion. A quick trip to the census says that there were about 275 million citizens in 2000. I figure that's close enough.

    By golly, we can save $51 per person if we eliminate NASA. But guess what? No more weather satellites. Television, communication sats will also no longer be launched.

    NASA has actually been the only government organization to provide a measurably positive effect on the economy. This might not be as true anymore, but the research done by NASA has had far-reaching effects.

    Firethorn
  • Why cant we just let Europa be ?

    Let the monolith do its work..and one day the children of the new world would meet the children of the old

    I am a 2001 : Space Odyssey junkie..
  • >WTF is Triton?

    Triton is the large moon of Neptune. However, I think that the post in question refered to *Titan*, the large moon of Saturn. The trouble with life on Titan is that while there might well be a ton of organic sludge, there isn't any water and the temperature is quite cold.
  • That's completely different. Colonizing the methane deposits isn't really different than colonizing a rock: they still use water like all life on Earth.

    Water might not be necessary, but no one has really been able to find another solvent in which to suspend the organics needed. Water has some really remarkable properties that are hard to get in other liqids, particularly in its abundance and its polarity (handy in disolving minerals, salts and other polar molecules).

  • Given the induced magnetic field in Europa, as seen by the Galileo magnetometer team this past year, I think the existence of an ocean on Europa is getting pretty hard to contest. The surface features and (weaker) chemistry point that way, too.

    The issue now is more a matter of 'is there enough energy to support life?' If all the tidal heat is dissipated in the ice, there will be no deep-sea geothermal vents, spewing out of equilibrium compounds out all over the place. Current models for Europa seem to favor this senario, although it's not certain by any means. But in the absense of these sources for energy, another is need. Chris Chyba's oxygen might provide such a source, although his number seem low to get a really interesting ecosystem going.

  • Sorry, but that's just not true. Jupiter's magentic field almost certainly doesn't penetrate that far for starters. Europa's ocean is laddened with salts, it appears, and this causes it to act as a barrier to the penetrate of field into the interior.

    Second, the field isn't that strong at Europa. Jupiter's surface field at the equator is 20 times Earth's. Field falls off as r-3 for a dipole (admittedly, the dipole approximation actually starts to get off at around Europa's distance, but this is an order of magnitude calculation). Europa's orbit is about 10 Jovian radii, so that's down from Jupiter's surface field by a factor of 1000. That is to say, Jupiter's field at that distance is much less than the field we feel from the Earth here. I don't see an tearing apart of things on Earth's surface.

    Finally, I know of no mechanism to tear appart a moon's core, even WITH a strong field. A metallic core would just generate currents and exclude the field by Lenz's law, not tear appart.

    You might be thinking of tidal heating, which is by far the dominant heating mechanism here. As I've stated elsewhere, that is unlikely to be a factor deep within Europa, and is likely only at work in the ice shell.

  • Upon what do you base your odds? We have one case of a planet or moon that we know has been hospitable to life as we know it (Earth) and that developped life. If you like, you can throw in Mars and make the odds 50%, but we don't know that there hasn't been life there (quite a few prominenet astrobiologists have staked their reputations and careers on ALH84001 as showing evidence of life).

    Further, you might consider that life on Earth couldn't form and persist until after the [late?] heavy bombardment ended, about 0.5 billion years into Earth's history, or 4 billion years ago. Current isotopic evidence points to life as having been present on Earth by 3.85 billion years ago (see Steve Moizjis's work). That's a REALLY quick developpment. If that's any indication, Europa has had plenty of time to develop life IF it has the right conditions to support life.

    Of course, all of this is based essentially on statistics of one. Even astronomers balk at drawing conclusions form this. Stating that if conditions are good on Europa implies there must be life is foolish. So is stating that the odds "make ``astronomical'' look humdrum (try worse than 1 in 10E300)."

  • Your biochemistry is perfectly correct. However, your conclusion is wrong this time, but for a subtle reason: Chyba's point (I have the paper in question in front of me right now) is that O2 in Europa's ocean would provide a source of energy. Molecular oxygen is seldom in equilibrium with any environment and tends to "want" to react quickly (which is a lot of what made it so dangerous for life). If you can provide a source of molecular oxygen to the oceans, the recombination reactions would represent a way that life could support itself. It is similar to how bacteria around geothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean can use sulfar compunds that are spurted out of the vents in disequilibrium concentrations to live.
  • by dstone (191334) on Friday June 22, 2001 @04:08PM (#131682) Homepage
    ...a scientist with SETI (Search for Intelligent Life Institute), told CNN...

    That would be SILI, not SETI. Silly, CNN.
  • Now it says 2008, arriving 2011-12. This is consistent with the CNN story:

    Astronomers might have to wait awhile for more clues in the search for life. The earliest another mission could launch for the Jupiter system is 2008.

    Anyone know why? Just budget?

  • I thought I saw on Discovery that massive gravitational forces can also generate warmth, because movement/strain in the moon's surface.
    That could mean higher temperature than expected.
    But IANA*
  • by Fenris2001 (210117) <fenris@nOsPAm.nmt.edu> on Friday June 22, 2001 @03:08PM (#131685)
    All your moonbase are belong to US!

    OK, unavoidable stupidity out of the way. Here's why we won't be using these as stopovers for a while yet - the radiation problem. See, the core of Jupiter is fluid metallic hydrogen, and it's spinning - this is responsible for Jupiter's enormous magnetic field strength - go here [nasa.gov] for numbers.

    All of the moons listed are inner moons, so their surfaces are constanly under bombardment from energetic particles trapped by Jupiter's magnetic field. An astronaut on the surface of any one of them would recieve a lethal dose in no time flat.

    Now, once we have adequate shielding (saw an interesting scheme to use material from one othe outer moons for this), we could land on or orbit a manned probe and send rovers out on the surface, and subs on Europa.
    ---------------
  • If we find life on mars, io, or europe, we will have to worry about whether we will destroy it.

    Maybe we should first try to improve our track record with lifeforms on earth.

    I sure hope the first person to discover lifeforms outside of earth will not be Japanese or Chinese. Why ? What do you think will be the first thing they try ? Of course - to eat the creature.

  • by MWoody (222806) on Friday June 22, 2001 @02:45PM (#131687)
    ...after all, we already know there's life on Mar's moons, Phobos and Deimos [mgon.com].
    ---
  • Why is it that they always point to oxygen and/or water as proof of life? Isn't it possible for life to exist without one or the other? (I mean, just because we need it is not proof.) Anaerobic organisms exist on Earth, why not elsewhere?

    Man, I'm really waiting for some methane breathers from the far reaches of space to show up and prove that everything we know about what constitutes a living organism is only a limited slice of the possibilities.

    Kierthos
  • by morie (227571)
    Europa [tranexp.com], plenty of people living there.
  • If one of Jupiter's moons harbors complex life it would be a great boon to both science and the biotechnology industries. Scientifically, we would be able to compare the new life forms to life on Earth, both chemically and morphologically and maybe develop and refine new theories about the evolution of life. Also, as with life on Earth, many of these organisms would have developed novel bio-chemical interactions that could be duplicated and exploited for their unique properties by manufacturing and medical industries. Whoever it was that posted above that our efforts and focus on Mars is wasted is partly right. Mars in of itself is not a very interesting destination, but as a way station to get to Europa or other potential life bearing moons of Jupiter, it would serve a valuable purpose. Mars is only interesting from a geological standpoint at best.
  • That would explain some weird shit [telegraph.co.uk] that's been goin down lately!

    Maskirovka

    --
    Copy protection (noun). A class of methods for preventing incompetent pirates from stealing software and legitimate customers from using it. Considered silly.

    - New Hackers Dictionary

  • freebasing is still popular. Mana from NASA (the brutally abridged version)

    Superplastic manufacturing methods, particularly with aluminum.

    Aluminum cans (related to the above).

    World wide communications networks.

    Accurate weather prediction.

    Protection for all the worlds power grids.

    Ceramics

    Photovoltaics

    I could quite literally go on for hours I'm sure. In fact one might make the case that the only government programs that were more beneficial were those of the DoD that produced computers, nuclear power, or DoE programs that brought water and power to every corner of the US. The fact of the matter is programs like NASA are what the government does right. If for some reason, these labors seem superfluous try doing with out them. Big government is what made the US what it is. If you think it was the bible, trucks with curtains and gun racks that made the US great, well I salute your ignorance. The effort it must have taken to get through life learning so little of your history is truly an achivement worth recognizing if not repeating.

  • by Kibo (256105) <moc.liamg#wan> on Monday June 25, 2001 @12:07AM (#131694) Homepage
    Look Braniac, I know you're busy plotting to use giant lobsters to destroy the Justice League, steal the wonder twin powers, and take over the world. But the fact is, the WHOLE economy we enjoy has sprung from those early investments. You call them risks, or accidents and pay homage to your gods of luck. The real world doesn't work like that. Sure, there was no foreknowledge of what form those fruits might take, or which ones would boom or bust. But the simple fact is, knowledge for its own sake is good. No, it's great. Ideas are one half of capitalism. (I would argue the most important half.) But once the knowledge is there, and available, it WILL find its way to people who will exploit it. The truth is, the government has, through its funding of these ideas in their infancy, built a better world. That's what people invented government for, to do the big and difficult things that might otherwise never be done. Look at the industries spawned from those innovations, so deliberately, and tenderly nurtured by, predominently, the western governments. They have brought the riches of the world to our door step in a way no conquering army ever could. I reap the benifits of this every damn day. I, simply by a trick of geography, was born into a life of privilege the vast majority of the world will only know from TV. All of the wealth, information, and freedom I and every other American (and a great many others I might add) enjoy flows from the government getting in on the ground floor, sometimes supporting ideas for decades.

    You would call this foolhardy, perhaps liken it to gambling? Well, I would make the clam that "big science" endevors such as these are more like numerology. If one considers Bible codes where "researchers" claim to find all manner of hidden messages that seem to "predict" the future, you find when you look. "Bible codes" and other similar "patterns" are obviously crap. Nothing more than interesting coincidence. Now, when you start looking for coincidences like that, you'll never know what they might relate to until you look. But its trivial to show that you WILL find something. When you look at undertaking challenging projects, such as NASA does, you know you will find something of intrest. When you look, you find. People such as yourself look at a dark room and conclude by its darkness it must be empty. A little illumination is always in order. As much as I would personaly like to get a hate on for people like you, and as much as I thoroughly despise the exhaltation of ignorance, I just can't bring myself to do it. It that damn situational myopia. Its not your fault you can't see anything beyond that which is immediately in front of you. Once more how can I truly admonish one for possessing, what I consider to be, an all too common trait. But still. The selection of ignorance over enlightenment? The painful irony is the information is free, at your library, on the internet, and bookstores with cafes. But you don't want to know. You acctually don't want to know. You want to cloak yourself in not knowing, and preach that knowing is bad. I've got to say, I find that far more offensive than anything that happens in Tijuana between two consenting mammals.

    Look I'll admit big government makes big mistakes, but I still say it also makes bigger advances. Small governement serves small intrests, typically those with deep pockets. With some of the choices the Republicans and some of the Democrats seem to be headed towards, I would expect my Euro-Pacific fund to really take off ten years from now. Things like the national super collider in Texas might have cemented us as the leaders in high temperature superconductors, and a few other areas of materials engineering. Maybe that would have lead to early breakthroughs in fusion research. Probably not, but still what a risk to pass up.

    What about risk anyway. You seem to think risk is something to be avoided. Not so. It's something to be controlled. Boeing, for all its trouble of late, might not even be around if not for some of the risks they took. They basically bet the farm on the 747, arguably one of the greatest aviation successes ever. The 777 was a risk in its own right as well. And now raytheon is building on that, planning to offer a jet with an all composit airframe. I suppose my final observation will be that the greatest risk of all might be never taking any risks.

  • If you want a God worship me. At least I exist.
  • If there is life that's not all to good. If we go to check on it and we DIE that would be bad.

    But if we could kickstart life there [that would probaly kill us anyways] that could be cool.

    But the cool thing would be - if we could live/stay there. Jupiter is pretty far away, and if we colonized it then it would be awsome cause our new snotty Jovian friends would be far away so we wouldn't have to look at them.

    But really it looks to be a promising rest stop on the way to farther things. Not to mention if the earth blew up or something, the 'survivors' would be tucked away safetly.

    What kinda impact would that have on our world if people could leave and then there is people who hate you because of what planet you lived on?
  • Yeah but ElRon Hubbard already says there is life on Venus.
  • If there is, in actuality life on the moon's Callisto, Ganymede and Europa, then wouldent that lead us to further study of grass roots organisms, and the true history of our own planet, and how through evolution the earth has been changed. This could be a very good thing, for curious minds.
  • I can safely say that if whatever lives up there ever comes down here, I've got 4 cases of Head & Shoulders here at home.

    Dancin Santa
  • As we have not yet actually heard from our brethren residing on other planets, how do you know that they are not out there? If God scattered us around the universe, wouldn't it stand to reason that we may have just not yet made contact?

    Dancin Santa
  • Hypotheses such as this provide even more reason for us as Humans to spread forth an information-gathering web composed of probes and satellites everywhere. The more data we collect, the better picture of what is really out there we'll have.

    Humankind needs new places to live, new environments for it to populate. Possibly the moons of Jupiter can provide the means of life for humans, if so we need to know.

  • by abumarie (306669) on Friday June 22, 2001 @08:32PM (#131702) Homepage
    I was going to post about the o2 bigots, but I guess you beat me to it.

    There are many other possible sources of energy that have been utilized (and are currently being utilized) by life on earth other than the conventional carbon/oxygen cycle. Primo example are the life forms around the "black smokers". Blue/green algae are also found in anoxic forms. For those with a really long memory, there was an editorial done in Analog magazine many years ago by John Cambell about the difference between "The" enviroment and "An" enviroment. Seems that there was an enviroment that existed on a planet once upon a time that we know about that was wiped out by a life form that emitted very poisonous gasses. The planet was earth, the time was several billion years ago, the life forms distroyed were blue green algae and the poisonous gas was oxygen emitted by green algae.

    I dare say that we also may have to re-consider what we mean by life when we actually get to examine some of these places. Prions are self replecating, but not life by our usual definition. Viral particles are. What happens when you find something that is self-replicating and more complex than the bare prion protein, but without the rna of a virus?

  • Of course there's life out there around other stars and most likely in our own solar system. I don't understand why we always assume that the life must be oxygen-based. There must be other systems out there deriving energy that don't rely on an oxygen cycle.

    I believe life must exist even in places that have traditionally been considered too "inhospitable".

  • There really isn't the claim that these moons actually currently have lifeforms on them, just that it's possible for the moons to support life in the future. Subtle difference, sure, but if we earthlings need to have a base for refueling and building spacecraft for missions to further areas in the universe this is the place. It's on the outside of the asteriod belt, so new missions wouldn't have to carefully plan for navigating that region. It also might be possible to terraform these moons to be much more earth-like.

  • by cosmo7 (325616) on Friday June 22, 2001 @03:24PM (#131705) Homepage
    navigating the asteroid belt would require a small, nimble spacecraft capable of shooting the really big asteroids into two smaller ones, and so on, until the little tiny asteroids just explode.

    beware of the flying saucer guy . use the hyperdrive. ooh, bad luck, one more go!

  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Friday June 22, 2001 @05:05PM (#131706)
    navigating the asteroid belt would require a small, nimble spacecraft capable of shooting the really big asteroids into two smaller ones, and so on, until the little tiny asteroids just explode.

    That navigation method only works in a universe of closed topology and a radius of a few thousand feet. Unfortunately, our universe is effectively unbounded. The smaller asteroids would escape, leaving the spacecraft with too low a score to reach its destination.

  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Friday June 22, 2001 @05:55PM (#131707)
    ... And on the third day, He didst create the molds and the spores and anaerobic slime amongst all of the spheres throughout the heavens. And He saw that it was good...

  • by 6EQUJ5 (446008) on Friday June 22, 2001 @03:08PM (#131708) Homepage
    Green sulfur bacteria are obligate anaerobic photoautotrophs. They were probably among the first forms of life in the universe. Who knows whether they go from planet-to-planet via meteoric debris, or if they occur naturally with the formation of young planets. I tend to assume the latter case.
  • Has anyone noticed that when NASA needs funding for some project these days that rocks are found that somehow found their way to the earth. These are identifyed by their particular structure and composition based on our knowledge of the indegionus rocks known to exist on these moons and planets, even though no one has ever been there or seen one, and no samples have ever been brought back by any means. I might find a Jupiter moon rock in my back yard. It will have been tossed here by some astoriod collision. How will I identify the markings?
  • The movie was "2010," an unjustly neglected classic. My big question is Triton. You've got a whole slew of organic matter there...
  • Let me guess, you read at +1? well than, pay attention now, see that 'Re:' in the subject line? that means that the post is a "Reply". Do you understand now?
  • s/than/then; //slap
  • O.K. Well send you next week, I hope you are ready to spend years in transit. use that time to get rested up because when you land on europa we need you to drill through MILES of ice.
  • I, for one, am sick of stories related to how humans could, one day, occupy or travel to a planet or moon other than earth. Since the walk on the moon during the cold war, no nation or community of nations has taken a substantive step to occupy or physically visit another planet or moon.

    If this event has yet to occur, then I doubt to see it during my lifetime or the lifetime of any user at /.. Generally, humankind does not prepare for such a monumential undertaking unless it is threatened or if a catastrophe has occurred. In other words, unless a meteor hits earth, I doubt humankind will be motivated to do nothing more than talk the talk. By then, obviously, it would be too late.

    Moreover, the initiative to travel or occupy another planet or moon would not be based on intelligent astronomical or planetary curiousities but, rather, it would be based on human's animal instincts to survive. If this was not true, then does mankind not currently possess such intelligent curiousities and the technology for a substantive developments?
  • This was first proposed after Voyager I and II flew past the planet and took high-resolution pictures of Europa's surface. Since then, it has been touted as a possibility from non-scientists like Issac Asimov all the way into movies (a.k.a. 2010 A Space Odyssey).

    If there is any life to be found, it's probably some awful mold that any ordinary domestic scientist would promptly kill with Lysol.

    -C
  • I'm no biology/space major, but isn't it a bit presumptous to expect extraterristerial life to rely on photosynthesis, even within our own galaxy? Who says the rules that apply on Earth apply everywhere?
  • OK, from what I know of astrobiology the going hypothesis *is* that life originates in a more conducive (micro)environment (which we could still consider harsh) first.

    With Mars this is the past climate which had liquid water, more atmosphere, and warmer temperatures. On Europa the theories are less settled, but one idea I saw looked at cracks in the ice cover that routinely bring liquid water to the surface as a potential microenvironment that supports photosynthetic life.

    Incidentally, the discovery of life on Mars wouldn't confirm the ubiquity of life. If the extraterrestrial life was found to be related to terrestrial life it would simply expand the biosphere slightly. On a cosmic scale, the difference between life on one planet in a solar system and life on several planets of a solar system are minor--it's far easier to transplant space spoors between planets than it is to get them out of the source star's gravity well and through interstellar space. What we'd really need to call life ubiquitous would be proof of interstellar panspermia, or (more interesting) some form of independently evolved life.
  • You don't need oxygen to support life: many life forms on earth get by happily without it. While the journalist has mangled the message, the article is about the possibility of supporting large, complex life forms (like sponges, worms, fishes, etc.), as opposed to bacteria. The only way we know to supply their metabolic needs is using oxygen based metabolisms.

    The current theory is that oxygen appeared on earth primarily as a by-product of photosynthesis and constituted a threat to most life on earth. Oxygen-utilizing organisms evolved in response, and this turned out to be the way animals could evolve. It's kind of ironic that only the production of a toxic waste product (oxygen) allowed evolution to go this way. If that hadn't happened, earth might stil be filled with little more than bacteria.

  • Main reason for Mars is that it is close. The distance between planets increases in an exponent-like (note, not an actual exponent) way as you move out. Venus is closer but the temperature and the sulphuric acid in the atmosphere makes keeping probes alive for long a problem. As for people, very few manned space missions couldn't have been better done by machines better (possibly only missions to determine the effects of space on humans need actual people). Most manned flights (particularly those to the moon) were manned for more PR-reasons (stick one up the Ruskies in return for getting manned orbit first) than the need for human crew. Unmanned probes have the added benefit of not needing to come back. They are subject to mechanical breakdown (especially when the US insists on building their parts in Inches (I thought you guys kicked the Brits out of there?), but humans are pretty fragile in harsh environments too. That isn't to say we shouldn't send human crews for other reasons (aesthetics, novelty, just because we can - are all as valid reasons as anyone has ever given for bothering to live), but probes are generally a better first step. BTW, download Celestia (*nix or win) and virtually explore the known and extropolated universe. You can't land on the planets, but you can get a pretty close orbit! Great stuff!
  • Jupitor orbits gigantor, which is located in the crab nebula.
  • Seems to me that if all there was on Europa was some little bacteria like the ones claimed for Mars, nobody would care much about this story. But they really should be saying "life as we know it," based on carbon, using (or generating) oxygen, and the rest of it, to play this up to the hilt.
  • Well now that George Dubya is in office you can ask "Is there INTELLIGENT life in the Oval Office?"
    [sorry couldn't resist]
    ---
  • Oh come on! Am I THAT bad? This was just too good a joke to pass by... gimme a break... Hey at least I'm not squashing watermellons like that Gallager guy!
    ---
  • Personally, I feel the 59 figure is *very* conservative. After all, it has been calculated that this world was created in 4004(?) BC (October 8 around 3 in the afternoon if I remember Good Omens correctly).

    Now, given that calendars have changed somewhat, losing a few years in the process, I calculate that there were approximately 121 civilisations which were cleansed of sin before Jesus got to us.
  • Yes an no. Whether or not his mere existence would be sufficient for cleansing sin, or whether it took 30 years for him to start cleansing sin, it still took 33 years of existence before sin was cleansed.

    So the original figures stand.
  • Ooh yeah. Io's surface is basically one big volcanic vent. It's the closest large moon and the tidal forces are fierce. Don't know about the other moons, but nothing so dramatic I think.
  • because then I could say, "Shouldn't they spend more time trying to determine if there's any life in the Oval Office?"
  • I doubt it but the scientists often say that without oxygen you cannot use fire and without fire you cannot smelt iron etc. I still think it is just their lack of imagination.

    I often think what will it be like when a hi-tech alien spaceship, ten millions of aliens in it, something like a huge movable planet, arrives and it will be the size of a basket-ball :)
  • Unfortunately, this is like most other announcements about the possibilties of life in our universe. It is a perfectly legit (at least I don't see a reason to doubt it) scientific study and the data will be corrupted by the media and E.T. fanatics until the information is useless to most of society. *cough*faceonmars*cough* Nonetheless, I'm glad to hear the announcement and I am fond of the idea of finding an ecology structured differently from ours. That would be a great discovery for biology.

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