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Space Science

Melting Europa 698

Posted by michael
from the you'll-come-a-melting-europa-with-me dept.
amigoro writes "After having contaminated Earth's Oceans, it seems that there are plans to send a probe drilling through Europa's ice sheet and explore the purported ocean below the crust. The plan seems to be to find Life there. But I wonder how long the time lag will be between the probe finding life, and a leak in the radioactive heater wiping all of it out."
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Melting Europa

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  • Hmmmm. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sevn (12012) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:01PM (#8582092) Homepage Journal
    Hippy.
  • Biased Poster? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:01PM (#8582099)
    Jeez, can you get any more bias worked into your message?

    • But the point is...? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Pi_0's don't shower (741216) <ethan@NOSPaM.isp.northwestern.edu> on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:19PM (#8582358) Homepage Journal
      As a graduate student in astrophysics (not planetary geology, which this would fall under), I think this is an overall good idea. (Agreed, the poster sounds a tad biased.)

      There are a few points which I would like clarified by someone who is perhaps knowledgeable. For one, landing a spacecraft on Europa, where we have little knowledge of its atmospheric conditions, will be a formidable challenge. (We've lost many Mars-intended missions due to that.) How can we plan for that?

      Secondly, I don't think it's known how deep the ice goes? Is there a plan for if the ice is a foot thick? How about 10 feet? How about 1000?

      Next, can we still transmit a signal back if we have to take a probe that far underwater?

      Notwithstanding a Europan shark eating the probe, I think there are some serious scientific reasons to be concerned about the search for life on one of the solar system's most likely candidates -- and we should ask ourselves if we're taking the best approach for a multi-hundred-million dollar mission?
      • landing a spacecraft on Europa, where we have little knowledge of its atmospheric conditions, will be a formidable challenge.

        Like killer aliens terraforming the universe? I swear those eggheads can't read:

        ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE
        USE THEM TOGETHER
        USE THEM IN PEACE
      • by TWX (665546) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:43PM (#8582628)
        A friend of mine is a planetary geologist, working at ASU's Space Photography Labratory and for various NASA projects. He is in favour of a mission to Europa, but taking precautions to ensure that we don't contaminate Europa with Terran life, and that we don't cause a significant impact on any life that we find there. If I remember correctly, he said that those conceiving a mission to Europa were considering a system that would heat the probe up to a high enough temperature to sterilize it.

        When he presented some of his stuff that I got to see, he said that the ice covering Europa was thick. VERY thick. Probably on the 1000 feet or greater kind of thick, though I admit that I cannot remember exactly.

        I think that communcations was going to be a relaying deal, with something on the surface of Europa relaying back to Earth, so the ROV wouldn't have to try to transmit on its own.
      • by orac2 (88688) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:45PM (#8582657)
        we have little knowledge of its atmospheric conditions

        Actually, we have very good knowledge of Europa's atmospheric conditions, i.e. it doesn't have one (well, no more so than our own moon). On a side note, the vast majority of failed Mars missions were lost not because of the difficulties of navigating the atmosphere but because of things like a rocket motor blowing up, or an incorrect course adjustment, these problems occuring well before any martian atmosphere was encountered.

        Estimates for the thickness of the ice on Europa vary, but think kilometers, not meters, except for a few areas, like the so-called Conemara cliffs region, were it could be much thiner, possibly due to a local hot spot.
      • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmail. c o m> on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @06:03PM (#8582892) Homepage
        one, landing a spacecraft on Europa, where we have little knowledge of its atmospheric conditions, will be a formidable challenge. (We've lost many Mars-intended missions due to that.)
        'Many' is a very odd spelling of 'possibly one'.
    • by levik (52444) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:32PM (#8582516) Homepage
      Yeah, really... And it's not like the Europeans are even on the endangered species list...

      Geez....

    • by JediTrainer (314273) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @06:16PM (#8583028)
      I hear that Europa is full of dihydrogen monoxide [slashdot.org]
  • Cripes (Score:5, Funny)

    by brotherscrim (617899) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:02PM (#8582106) Journal
    Do your arms get tired from hugging those trees that tightly?
    • Re:Cripes (Score:5, Funny)

      by jnicholson (733344) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:03PM (#8582118) Homepage
      The big black monolith might get us if we do that!
      • Re:Cripes (Score:3, Funny)

        by mahdi13 (660205)
        The big black monolith might get us if we do that!
        Only if we're lucky...it might evolve these Trolls into Gnomes. Not nearly as annoying, Gnome use real facts when posting about "Radioactive heaters"
    • Re:Cripes (Score:5, Funny)

      by Kenja (541830) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:06PM (#8582165)
      "Do your arms get tired from hugging those trees that tightly?"

      Tired arms I can deal with, its the crotch splinters which are the real problem.

      • Re:Cripes (Score:5, Funny)

        by velo_mike (666386) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:31PM (#8582510)
        Tired arms I can deal with, its the crotch splinters which are the real problem

        Err, it's hug, not hump, it's a common mistake...

      • by MacDork (560499) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @06:41PM (#8583319) Journal

        When Jane initially met Tarzan of the Jungle, she was immediately attracted to him, and during her questions about his life, she asked him how he had sex.

        "Tarzan not know sex," he replied.

        Jane explained to him what sex was.

        Tarzan said, "Oh... Tarzan use hole in trunk of tree."

        Horrified, she said, "Tarzan you have it all wrong, but I will show you how to do it properly." She took off her clothes and laid down on the ground. Here" she said, "you must put it in here!"

        Tarzan removed his loincloth...stepped closer with his huge manhood and then gave her an almighty kick right in the crotch.

        Jane rolled around in agony for what seemed like an eternity Eventually she managed to gasp for air and screamed, "What in the Hell did you do that for?!"

        "Tarzan check for bees."

  • Forget them (Score:5, Funny)

    by Deraj DeZine (726641) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:02PM (#8582112)
    I don't care if we mess up their planet, I hate those arrogant Europeans.
  • Question... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lukewarmfusion (726141) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:03PM (#8582117) Homepage Journal
    In all seriousness, why does it matter? This sounds like a lot of money to spend on a "maybe." I've wondered this for a while now, and I'd like to hear someone explain why this search for life is so crucial. I feel there might be better ways to spend the money, and better ways or opportunities to discover life on other planets/celestial bodies.
    • by nberardi (199555) * on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:07PM (#8582191) Homepage
      I think we should start spending more money on the search for intelligent life on earth, because this article poster contributes to the notion that their is none.
    • Who's more the troll, the troll or the troll who responds?
    • Re:Question... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bucko (15043) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:14PM (#8582288)
      In all seriousness, the human animal has been wondering about his place in the universe ever since the human animal became the human animal, and the answer to "is there life other-where" is an important component, yes?

      It may be a lot of money, and there may be more important ways to spend it (for some definitions of 'important', anyway), but to not seek the answer is to deny an important part of our humanness.
      Not everyone buys this, or ever has. But not everyone has to, just like not everyone has to buy great art.
      J.
      • Re:Question... (Score:3, Insightful)

        I guess my concern is that the article (biased though it may be) suggests that such efforts are aimed at Europa because it 'might' have life.

        I'm very interested in discovering life elsewhere. But I cringe when someone suggests sending billions of dollars to damn near every planet or moon in the solar system just because it seems like it might have had life at some point.

        If there's some evidence pointing at Europa as a good candidate (more than the article describes), I'm unaware of it. Hence, the concern.
  • by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:03PM (#8582120) Homepage
    But I wonder how long the time lag will be between the probe finding life, and a leak in the radioactive heater wiping all of it out.

    I'd like to see the leaky probe that could rival Jupiter itself [space.com] in bombarding Europa with radiation.

    Awww, don't look so down. I'm sure there are plenty of other snide quips to be made about our foolish, short-sighted engineers wiping out Life As We Don't Know It.

    Consider the possibility of a dihydrogen monoxide leak, for example...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:11PM (#8582242)
      >>I'd like to see the leaky probe that could rival Jupiter itself in bombarding Europa with radiation.

      Yeah, but that's *natural* radiation, not the unhealthy manmade stuff.

      Wait, I see a tree that needs a hug. See ya!

    • by Paddyish (612430) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:13PM (#8582282)
      Bingo. Cosmic radiation in general makes all of the nuclear-powered devices we create look about as harmful as a flashlight.

      If there is anything down there on Europa, it will probably eat the nuclear leakage for dinner and come back for seconds.

    • by mikerich (120257) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:23PM (#8582401)
      I'd like to see the leaky probe that could rival Jupiter itself in bombarding Europa with radiation.

      Except any life on Europa will have evolved away from that radiation since its protected by almost 20km of ice.

      The real threat of any contamination from a probe is not so much from radiation as from heavy metals leaching into the environment, but then if the floor of the Europan ocean is anything like the black smokers [amnh.org] of Earth's oceans any life should be used to heavy metals.

      Best wishes,
      Mike.

      • by murdocj (543661) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:30PM (#8582484)
        The real threat of any contamination from a probe is not so much from radiation as from heavy metals leaching into the environment

        The real threat of contamination is that unless the probe is absolutely, completely sterilized we'll never be sure whether life we find on Europa was "native" or came from Earth. Any other contamination of radiation, heavy metals, etc etc etc is irrelevant... it's not like one probe is going to contaminate the entire moon.

      • by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:37PM (#8582570)
        > The real threat of any contamination from a probe is not so much from radiation as from heavy metals leaching into the environment, but then if the floor of the Europan ocean is anything like the black smokers of Earth's oceans any life should be used to heavy metals.

        Suppose we look at the worst-case scenario. There's life on Europa to endanger. Probe melts through. Probe lands on sea floor. Probe just happens to land near a vent with a population of living organisms, where it fails catastrophically and spews its deadly cargo.

        Folks, Europa's oceans are big and deep. We're talking about a volume of water that exceeds all the water on Earth by an order of magnitude. If the Europan ecosystem is fragile enough to be destroyed by anything humans can put in a package small enough to send to the seafloor, life on Europa would either be undetectable -- because there's so little of it that the odds of landing on it are nearly zero, or life on Europa would already be extinct.

        Look at Earth. We detonated atomic bombs both above and below the ocean surface, spraying tons of transuranics into our seas and atmosphere. It may have sucked to have been a coral at Bikini Atoll in the 50s, but the ecosystem didn't even blink, and in fact, the Atoll is one of the planet's greatest recreational diving sites.

        If life doesn't exist on Europa, who cares - there's nothing to contaminate.

        If life does exist on Europa, and there's so little of it that we can't find it, odds are our probe isn't going to harm it, because we're going to be thousands of miles and trillions of gallons of water away from it. No harm.

        If life exists on Europa and it's sufficiently omnipresent in the Europan biosphere that our probe lands on enough of lifeforms to detect them, then it won't matter if the probe is made out of tofu from sustainably-grown soy fields, or if it contains a nuclear bomb that detonates and vaporizes everything within 10 miles -- a Europan biosphere, like the Terran one, is big enough to take anything we're capable of throwing at it.

        • by shigelojoe (590080) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:55PM (#8582780)
          Look at Earth. We detonated atomic bombs both above and below the ocean surface, spraying tons of transuranics into our seas and atmosphere. It may have sucked to have been a coral at Bikini Atoll in the 50s, but the ecosystem didn't even blink, and in fact, the Atoll is one of the planet's greatest recreational diving sites.

          Especially convenient is the fact that after a few hours of diving there you grow your own flippers.

          I keed, I keed.
        • Thank you.

          People have so little sense of perspective.

          The sort of people worried about contaminating a planet-sized body with a meters-long probe are the same sort of people who argue evolution can't possibly take place (in our universe of trillions of stars) because it's statistacally "one in a million".

          TW
  • by IamGarageGuy 2 (687655) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:03PM (#8582122) Journal
    In the name of saving the bind sea turtle, all travel in the Arctic ahould be banned and any knowledge that was gained from past explorations should be forgotten.
  • by YanceyAI (192279) * <yanceyai@yahoo.com> on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:03PM (#8582124)
    1.But I wonder how long the time lag will be between the probe finding life, and a leak in the radioactive heater wiping all of it out. --It is so cold that it would melt and refreeze forever.

    2. What next? Drill Sedna for oil?"--There must have been life for there to be oil, you insensitive clod! Oh wait, maybe that is why they're so desparate to find evidence of life elsewhere!

  • by aberant (631526) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:04PM (#8582136) Homepage Journal
    but it would be nothing compared to the hatred these radioactive, mutated, super alge would have.
  • Scared? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dhoonlee (758528) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:04PM (#8582141)
    Of course, its possible that the heater won't leak and that good science will be done.

    There is risk inherent in every action and inaction.

    This isn't news.
    • Re:Scared? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by AeroIllini (726211) <aeroillini.gmail@com> on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @07:29PM (#8583837)
      This isn't news.

      What do you mean, this isn't news? I've been waiting for someone to develop serious technology for a landing on Europa for quite some time now. Given that Europa is one big ocean and is the single most likely place in our solar system to find life (present planet excepted, of course) it's about time we thought about going there.

      Now, the hippie spin on the word "radioactive" ... you're right. That's not news. People have been fearing the words "nuclear", "reaction", "radioactive", and "atomic" for many years now. Any damage that might be done to the surrounding area because of a failure would be absolutely insignificant on a planetary, or even regional, scale. Just because the media have taught us to fear and hate anything with the word "nuclear" in it is no reason not to trust the technology.

      NASA has been using Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs) for decades on planetary probes and manned missions. The basic premise is this: a container holds some radioactive heavy metal, such as plutonium. Because the metal is decaying, it generates a bunch of heat. That heat is used with thermoelectric generators to create electricity, and the leftover heat (since the reaction is not not that efficient) is used in other ways, like keeping the astronauts warm. But here's the kicker: an RTG has never, ever failed on a space mission. Not once. It's been flown hundreds of times [doe.gov]. (Missions using RTGs have failed, but the RTGs themselves performed flawlessly every time.) Just because it's "nuclear" doesn't mean it's Chernobyl.
  • by relaying denied (705048) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:05PM (#8582149)
    That would be some expensive exclusive bottled water.
  • by Hayzeus (596826) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:05PM (#8582151) Homepage
    Apparently some recent research has indicated that the ice on Europa may be quite a bit thicker than initially thought. I'd post a link if I had one (but I don't) The thickness of the ice sheet may well be such that getting to the ocean below (assuming there is one) could turn out to be impractical, even using heat.
  • by Smitty825 (114634) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:05PM (#8582155) Homepage Journal
    Isn't Europa in Jupiter's radiation belts? In otherwords, a tiny amount of radiation released from a probe would probably be nothing compared to what the "ocean" experiences everyday? (I could be way off base, though)
  • by thinkninja (606538) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:05PM (#8582156) Homepage Journal
    RTFM!

    Now, a planet named after a miserable women who marries her father's dog is fair game...
  • Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Peter_Pork (627313) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:06PM (#8582161)
    The amount of damage a single probe can make to an entire ecology is infinitesimal, it doesn't matter how radiactive it is. Come on, even a nuke will not destroy it! Biological contamination is a different matter, though...
  • by MarkusQ (450076) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:06PM (#8582166) Journal

    Man, I wish we could mod stories. This one deserives at least:

    • -1 Overrated,
    • -1 Troll,
    • -1 Redundant,

      and

    • -2 Flamebait
    -- MarkusQ
  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:07PM (#8582176)
    As -1, Flamebait? Or how about -1, Begging the Question? Or -1, Troll even? Yeah thats a good one - michael, YHBT!
    How about instead, we have a decent discussion on the relative merits and costs of going to Europa and drilling in it to find Life.
  • by Keith Russell (4440) <keith.russell@noSpam.gmail.com> on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:07PM (#8582178) Journal

    What part of "All these worlds are yours, execpt Europa. Attempt no landings there." don't they understand?

  • Paranoia Check... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by malakai (136531) * on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:07PM (#8582182) Journal
    So let me get this straight.

    You're chaining yourself to a Tree because we're considering sending 5kg of 'radioactive' isotypes to a watery grave inside a frozen planet's 60 mile think liquid shell whose volume is greater than all the earths oceans combined.

    Hello bucket? This is water drop, make some room i'm coming in...

    christ do you people sit around all day _LOOKING_ for ways to complain and be outraged?

  • by 0ddity (169788) <jam1000_77@yahoo.com> on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:09PM (#8582203)
    /. is really starting to suck with all the editorial bias on these stories. I read the article and it didn't mention anything about raioactive leaks destroying the world or anything like that.

    I was under the impression this was a discussion board for tech news.
    How about we just post stories and then have a discussion about the story instead of pushing some agenda. Or maybe that is too complicated.
  • by onyxruby (118189) * <onyxruby@[ ]cast.net ['com' in gap]> on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:09PM (#8582207)
    http://www.nas.nasa.gov/Main/Features/2000/Fall/sp ace_pic1.html

    Europa is already highly radioactive. It's around 19 Mrads thanks to this thing we call Jupiter. Saying that a radioactive probe could potentialy destroy any life already there is akin to saying that my bottle of water could kill off life in the pacific. Its people like the poster of this story that the website about "dihydrogen monoxide" is meant to catch.
  • by tjic (530860) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:09PM (#8582215) Homepage
    After having contaminated Earth's Oceans, it seems that there are plans to send a probe drilling through Europa's ice sheet and explore the purported ocean below the crust. The plan seems to be to find Life there. But I wonder how long the time lag will be between the probe finding life, and a leak in the radioactive heater wiping all of it out. What next? Drill Sedna for oil?"

    After we remove the irrelevant ("after having contaminated..."), the admission of insufficient research ("the plan seems to be"), the speculative and hysterical ("a leak in the radioactive heater wiping out all [ life ]"), and the lame attempt at humor ("drill Sedna"?), we're left with the following condensed version of the post:

    there are plans to send a probe drilling through Europa's ice

    to which I respond:

    "yes, that's old news".

  • How Ironic (Score:5, Funny)

    by jetkust (596906) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:10PM (#8582225)
    But I wonder how long the time lag will be between the probe finding life, and a leak in the radioactive heater wiping all of it out

    The same time it would take for a drill in your head to find a brain.
  • by Daniel Quinlan (153105) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:11PM (#8582239) Homepage

    "After having contaminated Earth's Oceans"

    "But I wonder how long the time lag will be between the probe finding life, and a leak in the radioactive heater wiping all of it out. What next? Drill Sedna for oil?"

    I wish the Slashdot editors could maintain at least the pretense of objectivity in which stories they post. I'm sure someone else submitted the story without the loaded commentary. I mean, even the sexing-up BBC managed to write a decent article about this.

    If not that, perhaps it would be helpful for less frequent readers if editors disclosed their obvious biases: Green Party member, voting for ABB, never tires of SCO stories, Microsoft-hater, whatever.

    Another option would be sub-sites for News for [insert political bent]-leaning nerds, stuff that confirms your beliefs.

  • by GSpot (134221) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:11PM (#8582243) Homepage
    And leave your personal politics out of this... Mr. Danson. Let us remeber that we are a product of the Largest ecological disaster are planet has ever seen. The mass extinction brought on by the Earth being hit by a medium size comet/asteroid/metor. She survived, I am sure Europa will survive a few 100 Kg metallic device soft landing on her surface.
  • by DoorFrame (22108) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:12PM (#8582264) Homepage
    I once dated someone who was fully against the exploration, or colonization, of Mars because she feared that we were given this planet and we've made a mess of it. She argued that we had no right to go to another planet that didn't belong to us and alter it in any substantial way. After a few somewhat lenghty discussions trying to pin down exactly what her issue was about, I discovered that the she felt that GOD had given us this planet and not Mars, hence we shouldn't mess up God's plans with Mars by stomping all over it with our oversized space boots.

    I didn't agree. I've got a feeling this argument, while maybe not coming from a religious perspective, has a lot of the same concepts built in. Guess what, we humans, as a race, own everything in the solar system. It is ours to do with as we see fit... other planets are being wasted until we make full use of them for humanity as a whole. Until and unless I'm shown proof of life on another planet, and it would probably have to be a somewhat substantially high order of life, I'm going to argue that it's our position to decide the destiny of every bit of metal, gas and rock that's floating in orbit around our sun.

    • by El (94934) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:28PM (#8582470)
      Guess what, we humans, as a race, own everything in the solar system. Plus any other planets we can get to and beat up the current inhabitants of!

      Guess what, humans don't own jack. We share a planet with millions of other species. That fact that we are able to influence the planet more than most other species gives us a responsibility to act as caretakers. The question of exploiting other celestial bodies is moot until it becomes economically feasible to do so anyhow.

    • by Mullen (14656) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:30PM (#8582491)
      I once dated someone who was fully against the exploration, or colonization, of Mars because she feared that we were given this planet and we've made a mess of it. She argued that we had no right to go to another planet that didn't belong to us and alter it in any substantial way. After a few somewhat lenghty discussions trying to pin down exactly what her issue was about, I discovered that the she felt that GOD had given us this planet and not Mars, hence we shouldn't mess up God's plans with Mars by stomping all over it with our oversized space boots.

      Yes, but did you see her naked? That's all that matters.

    • by wolf- (54587) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:31PM (#8582505) Homepage
      And here I thought God's plan was for mankind to have dominion over creation. (Genesis 1:26,28)

      That and to have sex and multiply...
    • by Razor Blades are Not (636247) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:50PM (#8582719)
      Guess what, we humans, as a race, own everything in the solar system. It is ours to do with as we see fit... other planets are being wasted until we make full use of them for humanity as a whole. Until and unless I'm shown proof of life on another planet, and it would probably have to be a somewhat substantially high order of life, I'm going to argue that it's our position to decide the destiny of every bit of metal, gas and rock that's floating in orbit around our sun.

      Guess what ... the concept of ownership is completely human. In reality, we can't lay claim to anything we can't hold on to.
      Perhaps I'm reading too far between the lines of your post, but I'd prefer to say that humanity has the potential to utilize other planets, in this system or another. Whether we ever fulfill that potential is another matter.

      Furthermore, your post implies (to me) a lack of concern for other environments. I'm not one to suggest that we should not visit or utilize these other worlds, but we need to take responsibility for our actions, and the ramifications they cause. Consider the research we may be denied the opportunity for, if we were to rampantly spread and 'contaminate' other environments. We've done it over and over again on this planet, usually before we knew any better. Lets try not to do it in the future, ok ?

      BTW = This is a practical concern, not some sort of fluffy feel-good 'lets not harm the martians' kind of thing.
    • by HarveyBirdman (627248) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @06:05PM (#8582909) Journal
      I discovered that the she felt that GOD had given us this planet and not Mars, hence we shouldn't mess up God's plans with Mars by stomping all over it with our oversized space boots.

      Eh, I've met athiests who oppose us colonizing space as well for the same reasons (minus the God part).

      It has nothing to do with theology.

      It has everything to do with this: --> People are, in general, fucking idiots.

      I hope this helps. :-)

      Was she at least good in bed?

    • by The Lynxpro (657990) <`lynxpro' `at' `gmail.com'> on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @06:29PM (#8583147)
      "Guess what, we humans, as a race, own everything in the solar system. It is ours to do with as we see fit... other planets are being wasted until we make full use of them for humanity as a whole."

      I think the Annunaki would have a problem with your logic. However, since they need to return all that gold they pilfered from Earth, I guess they cannot speak on such a subject with any moral authority.

  • by Homology (639438) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:12PM (#8582266)
    What's next? Drill Sedna for oil?

    Oil on Sedna? On a dirty, utterly cold rock on the very edge of the Solar system? On a rock that even NASA hesitate to call a planet? Let me guess, you are the product of the US high school system with intellectual skills honed to perfection by watching Fox News?

  • by MarkGriz (520778) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:13PM (#8582271)
    Before allowing troll articles, please modify slashcode so we can mod them accordingly.
  • by Lothsahn (221388) <Lothsahn@@@SPAM_ ... u_bastardsyahocm> on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:13PM (#8582273)
    You could poison Europa's environment and possibly destroy any life down there!

    ...With DihydrogenMonoxide!

    Think of all the DihydrogenMonoxide that would be released as a result of all this melting! It could be catastrophic!
  • by travdaddy (527149) <{gro.liamxunil} {ta} {ovart}> on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:13PM (#8582280)
    This is yet another example of why NASA should make more use of Ask Slashdot. We could have helped create a better rover AND saved Europa!
  • by zoneball (568363) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:14PM (#8582286)

    But I wonder how long the time lag will be between the probe finding life, and a leak in the radioactive heater wiping all of it out.

    That would be close to never. Europa isn't exactly like a small city like Nagasaki for instance. Even when we intentionally unleashed 2 radioactive devices at Nagasaki and Hiroshima, we failed to wipe out all life on the local chain of Japanese islands.

    Even around Chernobyl 18 years later [slashdot.org] life seems to be going on as usual.

    The reactors for spacecraft just aren't large enough to cause any large scale catastrophic wipe-outs.

  • by Cheeko (165493) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:15PM (#8582297) Homepage Journal
    I thought one of the arguments for crashing the Gallileo probe into Jupiter, was that they didn't want to leave it in orbit and risk having it crash into Europa, where there may be life. Deciding to drill a probe into Europa would seem to be just as risky with regard to contamination.

    Forget about radation for a minute, and just think about the microbes that may still be on the probe from earth? Any chance these to be introduced onto Europa? Perhaps if there wasn't life before, we would introduce it.

    In either case I find it odd that previous missions would go to extreme measure to avoid contaminating Europa and this mission plans to flat out do it on purpose.
    • by susano_otter (123650) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:57PM (#8582801) Homepage
      Look: The Galileo probe had contamination problems because it was designed for a space-only mission, and therefore was not subjected to a rigorous decontamination process before launch.

      Therefore, when the possibility arose that it might crash on Europa, the decision was made to burn the probe rather than risk contamination.

      Since this probe is intended to actually land on Europa, it will be subjected to the rigorous decontaminiation process that is already in place and applied as part of the standard prep checklst for planetary missions (such as the Mars rovers, for example).

      Summary:
      Galileo--space mission, not decontaminated, not allowed to land on Europa.
      Europa Probe--planetary mission, decontaminated, intended to land on Europa.
      You--not smarter than NASA.
  • by Performer Guy (69820) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:22PM (#8582386)
    It is really frustrating to hear this kind of ignorant nonsense masquerading as legitimate concern. The natural sources for radioactivity on Europa vastly outweigh anything man could introduce with this probe plan. The last thing we need is junk science wielded by knee jerk eco-fanatics over other Solar System bodies without justification. Stick to torching SUVs pretending you're having a positive effect instead of a negative one & leave the brain trust to get on with the difficult process of rational thought and exploring the Solar Sysetem.
  • by ChaosDiscord (4913) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:23PM (#8582397) Homepage Journal
    But I wonder how long the time lag will be between the probe finding life, and a leak in the radioactive heater wiping all of it out."

    Hey, I've got intelligence that shows that those microbes could evolve into sentient tool using creatures then develop and deploy weapons of mass destruction in a mere million years. If we wait to know for certain the first warning may be a mushroom cloud on Earth. Can we take that risk? We have to strike first!

  • by Daniel Quinlan (153105) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:25PM (#8582429) Homepage
    All These Worlds Are Yours Except Europa. Attempt No Landing There. Use Them Together. Use Them in Peace.
  • by Guspaz (556486) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:26PM (#8582436)
    The news post is such a typical anti-science message that it'd be funny if it weren't so depressing that people can be so stupid. The message obviously shows somebody who is against things they don't understand. They're probably the kind of person who opposes GM food not because it is unsafe, but because it has the word "genetic" in it.
  • by kakos (610660) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:33PM (#8582538)
    As many have pointed out, I don't think we have to worry about radiation since Europa is in Jupiter's radiation belts.

    However, what we do have to worry about is the primitive fish-like people of Europa worshipping our probe like a god! Think of the cultural havok we could wreck on their primitive society!
  • by warpSpeed (67927) <slashdot@fredcom.com> on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @06:03PM (#8582885) Homepage Journal
    Did you mean to submit this to http://www.kuro5hin.org/ [kuro5hin.org]?

    Please whine over there about ecological disasters, and how bad we are as a species, etc...

  • Microbes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ReciprocityProject (668218) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @06:35PM (#8583248) Homepage Journal
    As always, the real risk is that we'll contaminate Europe with microbes.

    One of the points I make, when people bring up the topic of alien organisms contaminating Earth, is that Earth really has pretty advanced microbes. Microbes on Earth have had 4.5 billion years to practice infesting each other and the various high-level organisms. Likewise, our immune systems have had slightly less time to practice fighting off such microbes. All this evolution makes them pretty advanced.

    Granted, Europa has had the same time to work as we have, but it hasn't had as large a playground, and most likely none of the organisms there have gone up against a mammalian immune system anytime during their evolutionary development. Nor have they gotten the chance to try to survive in as many different environments.

    How is this on topic? Any organisms we send over there will wipe the floor with any Europan microbes they find. This may be a giant leap for Earthling microbes, but it's probably bad for science.

    Same thing goes for Mars and elsewhere.
    • Re:Microbes (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Alsee (515537) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @04:49AM (#8586985) Homepage
      All this evolution makes them pretty advanced.

      If there is life on Europa anywhere near as old as Earth life (or possibly even older), then it will probably be 'pretty advanced' in its own way.

      it hasn't had as large a playground

      Actually it would have have a much LARGER playground. Europa's oceans are an order of magnitude larger than the Earth's oceans. The 3-dimentional playground of the entire insides of Europa is a vastly larger habitat for life in than the vanishingly thin layer (pretty much 2-dimentional) on the skin of the Earth. On that basis it would be more reasonable to expect Europan life to probably wipe out all life on Earth.

      most likely none of the organisms there have gone up against a mammalian immune system

      Of course they haven't gone against a mammalian immune system any more than they've gone against a reptilian or marsupial immune system.

      On the other hand:
      (A) Assuming there is life there, we have absolutely no idea what sort of immune systems they have had to contend with.
      and (B) If they haven't had to contend with any immune systems then they never had to WASTE EFFORT on silly kludges to deal with them. Any energy and mechanisms expended on something that doesn't exist there will be a drain on efficency and success.

      Nor have they gotten the chance to try to survive in as many different environments.

      Ha. On Earth life lives on the puny skin of the Earth. On Europa it could live on the skin of the moon and in within the icy crust and on the underside of that ice layer facing the ocean and in the castly different depths of the ocean probably a thousand kilometers deep and on the surface of the rocky core facing the ocean.

      rganisms we send over there will wipe the floor with any Europan microbes

      Human/Earth superiority, pure bigotry (chuckle).

      Believing that is no more valid than believing the universe revolves around the Earth or beleiving that humans are (biologically) different or superior to any other animal on Earth.

      All that said, yes, any probe should be sterilized before being sent. (A) We don't want to (at least not yet) contaminate Europa with Earth like if it is currently sterile. (B) We don't want to risk contaminating/disrupting the Europan ecology if an Earth-microbes somehow manages survive in some niche at the fringe of that biosphere, and (C) because there is a remote but catastrophic risk that Earth-microbes manages to overwhlem and displace Europan life.

      And while such precautions are wise, they are mostly likely moot anyway. It is known that impactors can blast material from one body in teh solarsystem into space and that that material can and does land on other bodies in the solar system. We have found meteorites from Mars, and there is no doubt that meteorites from Earth have landed on Mars and probably ever other body in the solar system. Earth life has already "contaminated" every body in the solar system. It's quite possible that all life on Earth is actually "contamination", that our life originated Europa (or Mars).

      But until we are sure, we need to sterilize any probes.

      -

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