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NASA Space Science

NASA May Send Landers To Europa In 2020 156

Posted by Soulskill
from the let's-send-a-fleet dept.
wisebabo writes "So here's a proposal by NASA to send landers to Europa to look for life. They are sending two landers because of the risks in landing on Europa. They got that right! First is the 500 million mile distance from the Sun, which will probably necessitate RTGs (Juno uses solar panels, but they are huge) and will cause at least an hour of lag time for communications. Then there is the intense gravitational field of Jupiter, which will require a lot of fuel to get into Jovian and then Europan orbit. (It's equivalent to traveling amongst the inner planets!) The radiation in space around Jupiter is tremendous, so the spacecraft may need to be 'armored' like Juno. Landing on Europa is going to be crazy; there aren't any hi-res maps of the landing areas (unlike Mars) and even if there were, the geography of Europa might change due to the shifting ice. Since there is no atmosphere, it'll be rockets down all the way; very expensive in terms of fuel — like landing on the Moon. Finally, who knows what the surface is like; is it a powder, rock hard, crumbly or slippery? In a couple respects, looking for life on Titan (where we've already landed one simple probe) would be a lot easier: dense atmosphere, no radiation, radar mapped from space, knowledge of surface). If only we could do both!"
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NASA May Send Landers To Europa In 2020

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 10, 2011 @02:50PM (#38328162)
    I think Europe should send probes to Europa.
  • by nura78 (757740) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @02:50PM (#38328174)
    Weren't we warned about not not landing there? :-P
    • All these worlds Are yours except Europa Attempt no Landing there Use them together Use them in peace........ Better not hack them off, Jupiter will disappear & turn into another sun LOL.
      • Re:exactly! (Score:5, Informative)

        by rossdee (243626) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @03:57PM (#38328846)

        "All these worlds Are yours except Europa Attempt no Landing there"

        Yep, that part is from the book 2010 by Arthur C Clarke

        The rest is from a crappy movie based on the book

        • by alfredos (1694270)
          Not sure about "crappy". It's a classic of its genre and, just like the books, has that feeling, typical of the time, that the author smoked something really weird while writing some parts.
          • You are thinking of 2001. Parent is talking (correctly given context!) about 2010.

            2010 was not trippy, like the latter half of 2001; 2010 was quite straight forward really.

            It's a bit dated now with the whole cold war sub plot, but otherwise a pretty good movie.

            • by petsounds (593538)

              Well, it's LITERALLY dated now that we've already passed 2010.

              But the US still has a Cold War -- it's just with China now. [a more complicated Cold War, certainly, but despite the economic relationship the militaries of the two nations see each other as a primary threat] And once they get their space program in full swing and the US program continues to deteriorate, I could see a tense joint mission between the two.

              • by Grishnakh (216268)

                Except that, unlike during the first Cold War, the US military now is completely incompetent since they actually get their military hardware from their primary threat. Back during the first CW, the US never got any of its military hardware components from the Soviet Union; there were no Sovtek chips in US gear. Not so any more. Now lots of the hardware comes directly from China: flat-panel displays, electronic components like ICs and capacitors, plus plenty of counterfeit parts because the defense contra

                • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                  by petsounds (593538)

                  I don't have working knowledge of US military hardware internals, and if I did I certainly couldn't comment about it, but I imagine to some extent you're correct. Though there's still a big difference of knowledge and skill between base parts and a final design. For instance, getting photos and material samples from a downed US stealth fighter or helicopter doesn't mean the Chinese can go right out and build one of their own, or automatically absorb the theory and science behind it. But they are improving m

                  • by Grishnakh (216268)

                    You don't need to know anything about the internals, other than they use common parts like flat-panel LCD screens (doesn't everything these days?), and electronic components like resistors, capacitors, and ICs. Many of these parts now come from China; we even had news articles recently about how a bunch of US military hardware was failing because it was built with (Chinese) counterfeit parts, which of course failed prematurely.

                    The fact that China controls the production of much of this stuff means that if

                    • And in the process, China would wreck its own economy by killing it's best customer.

                      Why couldn't they keep all the stuff they make and trade it among themselves, rather than shipping it overseas in return for IOUs?

                • by Gonzoman (39290)

                  I worked on the DEW line back during the late '70s and early '80s. The vacuum tubes for our comm equipment and radar (finest 1950's tech) came from Poland, which was part of the Warsaw Pact.

              • The old idiots that think of the cold war as "the good old days" would LIKE another cold war but it isn't really happening. It's just two large countries looking after their own interests.
                I know you are getting this from elsewhere so I can be frank without being insulting - don't take it personally because the stupidity is not yours. It's really a very stupid analogy when you think back to the 1970s and not really anything like the cold war at all.
              • by ceoyoyo (59147)

                It's been a while since I read the series, but wasn't it 2010 where the Russians and Americans end up doing a joint mission and competing with the Chinese?

              • Well, China is preparing for a hot war. [dailymail.co.uk] It is an interesting read. But there have been reports for over a decade that China had restarted their nuke production. Who knows, with the horrible leadership in America for the last decade, we will probably find out when most of them launch.
                • Daily Mail stories should be treated with suspicion, if not outright derision. For example [theregister.co.uk]

      • by slick7 (1703596)

        All these worlds Are yours except Europa Attempt no Landing there Use them together Use them in peace........ Better not hack them off, Jupiter will disappear & turn into another sun LOL.

        We come in peace, shoot to kill, shoot to kill - Star Trekin'

  • by filmorris (2466940) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @02:52PM (#38328194)
    The awkward moment when you read "NASA May Send Landers To Europe In 2020"
  • NASA in 2020? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ikedasquid (1177957) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @02:55PM (#38328226)
    With all the rabid budget cutting going on, we'll be lucky if NASA is still around in 2020.
    • by Hartree (191324)

      Oh, it'll still be around since no one would want the political fallout from ending it. The staffing and facilities might be a little smaller, though.

      His desk will be over in that corner.

      • by decora (1710862) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @05:15PM (#38329526) Journal

        A group of congress people killed it , on purpose, by making it pay-forward its pension fund for 75 years. Almost no company could survive that.

        Is that what any of the news reports say? No. Most of them say "oh, email killed it". complete horse shit. if they hadn't had to pre-fund their pension, they would have been rather profitable in recent years. Unlike, say, Goldman Sachs, Fannie Mae, Merrill Lynch, Wachovia, General Motors, Chrysler, and every other bailed out shit hole full of ivy league douchebags and hedge fund assholes.

        • by jpmorgan (517966) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @08:21PM (#38331094) Homepage

          That's pure spin. Changing the USPS to account for 75 years worth of liabilities brings it in line with the private sector. It used to be under normal government accounting rules, which are a lot more "flexible." If anybody in the private sector tries the accounting tricks the government lets itself get away with, they find themselves on the sharp end of an audit pretty damn quick.

          In the private sector, federal law requires you to fully fund a pension plan, including all future liabilities. That's stricter than the USPS's 75 year requirement. In practice they're pretty similar, because you're not likely to have any significant liabilities beyond 75 years.

    • Re:NASA in 2020? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cavreader (1903280) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @05:45PM (#38329796)
      NASA's existence and funding is practically guaranteed because the US government and military will never allow other countries to exceed the US space capabilities without a fight. Space is the ultimate high ground. The original moon landings were directly related to the US - USSR competition for space and technological advancements. Budgets can always be enlarged if necessary. As it is most countries in the world are still trying to develop tech the US had in the 60's.NASA is still a going concern although some people will never give them any credit unless they produce a warp drive.
      • by cosm (1072588)
        While in theory I agree with some of your premises, a couple problems.
        - Cold war is over, the pissing contest of space superiority isn't nearly as beneficial as it used to be (unless their becomes more military incentive, then perhaps we'll see a resurgence in contractor money flow).
        - Budgets cannot always be enlarged. We will eventually hit a funding wall. And say perhaps the budgets are continually increased, well with 'quantitative easing', inflation / depreciation of the dollar and lack of proper reve
        • "Cold war is over" The US competed with the USSR during the cold war but the US is now competing with China for technical and economic dominance.
      • Re:NASA in 2020? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by surfdaddy (930829) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @07:41PM (#38330796)

        NASA's existence and funding is practically guaranteed because the US government and military will never allow other countries to exceed the US space capabilities without a fight. Space is the ultimate high ground. The original moon landings were directly related to the US - USSR competition for space and technological advancements. Budgets can always be enlarged if necessary. As it is most countries in the world are still trying to develop tech the US had in the 60's.NASA is still a going concern although some people will never give them any credit unless they produce a warp drive.

        Uhhh....no way.

        What countries, TODAY, can launch men into space? Answer: China and Russia.

        Does NASA have a clear path forward to manned spaceflight? Answer: No - it's many years down the line, if ever.

        OK, how about commercial space. Isn't NASA funding commercial space programs? Answer: Yes, but the funding has been dropping rapidly, as powerful lobbying interests (re: Boeing, other established Aerospace players) want to preserve their big cash cows. So wildly innovative companies like SpaceX are in danger of losing funding, all in the name of crony capitalism.

        It's all pretty damn depressing if you ask me. I wish you were correct, but you're not.

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        While in theory I agree with some of your premises just like "cosm", I have another problem to add to his:
        - Have you seen the morons running for President lately? And have you seen the way the idiots at the voting booth vote these days? If one of the Republicans gets elected, I wouldn't be surprised to see NASA get the ax, along with a bunch of other Federal agencies, no matter how little sense it makes to national security. Say what you will about China, but at least they actually have smart people runn

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        The race to the moon was more about the US catching up with the USSR that had already been sending humans into orbit for a few years before NASA managed to to get a guy just into space (not orbit). Despite getting more German rocket scientists the US has been concentrating on long range bombers and spy planes, where as the USSR realised that space was, as you say, the ultimate high ground.

        Before his assassination Kennedy discussed a joint moon mission with his Russian counterpart. They had developed a good

        • The USSR confiscated just as much Germany rocket technology as the US did. The USSR did launch the first successful satellite that finally got the US government's attention. However, the USSR also launched a probe towards the moon but ended up missing by a wide margin. That probe is probably still on it's journey in space. I am surprised that the UUSR did not try to launch a manned mission to the moon after the US planted their flag there.
  • by roguegramma (982660) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @02:56PM (#38328228) Journal

    I always knew there was a reason why we weren't understanding each other.

  • by synaptik (125) * on Saturday December 10, 2011 @03:00PM (#38328270) Homepage
    Have we forgotten? "All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there." (Stupid NO-CAPS slashdot filter...)
  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @03:02PM (#38328300)
    I opened slashdot while wrapping Christmas presents and read the headline as "Nasa May Send Lawyers to Europa." My thought was, "Be sure to send them all."
    • i agree. society would be much better if we simply settled our disagreements like they did before lawyers - by having one baronial lord force a group of peasants, under penalty of death, to attack another, in a never ending cycle of pointless, ego driven violence and bloodshed, resulting in the cultural stagnation of entire continents for centuries at a time.

      • What fantasy land do you live in that that was before lawyers?
        • by jd2112 (1535857)

          What fantasy land do you live in that that was before lawyers?

          Ah, the second oldest profession.

      • by Surt (22457)

        Indeed, it's depressing how much better that was than what we have now.

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      2027: Frivolous 1, a mega spaceship that all of humanity has gathered together to build, launches into space with the majority of the world's lawyers on board.

      2035: A Zeta Reticulan delegation approaches Earth and demands compensation for pollution of their star system.

      • by jd2112 (1535857)

        2027: Frivolous 1, a mega spaceship that all of humanity has gathered together to build, launches into space with the majority of the world's lawyers on board.

        2035: A Zeta Reticulan delegation approaches Earth and demands compensation for pollution of their star system.

        Why would we send lawyers into deep space and risk an interstellar incident when it would be so much easier to shoot them into the sun?

  • by decora (1710862) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @03:05PM (#38328322) Journal

    it seems to me that dumping thousands of nanobots across the planet would be easier than relying on one big lander to safely and smoothly land on an unseen location.

    i guess the problem is you cant pack nice instruments into a nanobot. or... can you?

    • by dgatwood (11270)

      Then they can combine, using the crust for raw materials, and form a giant city with human-form repli... no, wait....

    • Re:nanobots (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Grishnakh (216268) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @08:28PM (#38331136)

      it seems to me that dumping thousands of nanobots across the planet would be easier than relying on one big lander to safely and smoothly land on an unseen location.

      Yes, exactly. Not only that, but instead of burning so much fuel to get into Europa orbit and land on the surface due to the high gravity in the Jovian system and the lack of atmosphere on Europa, it would make a lot more sense to use antigravity engines, or better yet simply teleport probes to the surface. Why don't we do that?

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      They tend not to survive the fall from orbit very well.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      There are many problems with nanobots. Energy (energy sources can't be miniaturized effectively), communication (you need a strong laser to reach Earth from there), locomotion (a nanobot will not be able to move much), resilience (the nanobots won't be able to survive the harsh conditions). And yeah, the smaller they are, the less payload they can carry.

  • JFK (Score:4, Interesting)

    by freezway (1649969) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @03:10PM (#38328372)
    "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too." -JFK
  • Why don't they ask ESA? I am pretty sure they already have landers there
  • by MacGyver2210 (1053110) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @03:18PM (#38328464)

    I thought the headline said "NSA May Send Lenders to Europe in 2020"...

    I was wondering why they were going to wait so long.

  • by Cochonou (576531) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @03:19PM (#38328472) Homepage
    This does not sound like a right schedule - as the Jupiter Europa Orbiter mission was put on hold recently. Having worked a bit on it, the expected level of radiation was very high, even when compared to Juno. It follows on a long tradition of missions to Europe being cancelled (see the Jupiter Icy Moon Orbiter which was cancelled in 2005). Fans of Arthur C. Clarke will see a trend there. The Laplace mission (from ESA) which is aiming for Ganymede is currently trying to pick on bits of JEO science targets by adding flybys of Europe to the original mission plan - we will see how far it goes.
    • Indeed; the original article doesn't properly reflect that this is JPL wishing for a pony.

      Until the beginning of this year, NASA and ESA were working on a joint mission called EJSM (Europa Jupiter System Mission), incorporating a Jupiter Europa Orbiter (JEO) from NASA and a Jupiter Ganymede Orbiter (JGO) from ESA. That derived from an earlier joint mission concept called Laplace which was proposed to ESA's Cosmic Vision call in 2007 as a Large (L) mission. EJSM would have launched (on two separate rocke

  • by Ganty (1223066) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @03:21PM (#38328504)

    Here's the problem, if the probe lands in 2026 I'll be 67 years old and I might not be able to appreciate it. Some speed here would be appreciated guys!

    Oh, and GET OFF MY DAMN LAWN!!

    Ganty

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @03:47PM (#38328750) Journal

    From the previous slashdot story about "Rare Earths". The argument was made that the a large moon (which may be very rare) might be necessary to keep a planet's axis from wobbling. But what about an exo-moon around a (much larger) planet?

    If having a large moon helps stabilize the earth's rotation, what about if an exo-"planet" is, in fact a moon around a much larger (probably gas giant) planet, just like Pandora in the movie "Avatar"? One would imagine that any variation in its climate due to wobbling would be completely eliminated.

    While the "exo-moon" would almost certainly be tidally locked to the giant planet, as long as the orbital period wasn't too long (a week?) the difference in temperature between night and day would hopefully not be too pronounced. For example Io, has a period of 1.7 days. If the moon had a really thick atmosphere (like Titan) then this would probably not matter in the slightest as the "air" would likely distribute the heat quite effectively (but could be windy!).

    Another thing we've learned by looking at these moons orbiting the gas giants is that they could have almost any amount of tectonic activity which is important for things like plate tectonics which is sometimes regarded as being essential for its effects on our climate. From super-volcanic Io to frozen Callisto, we see that tidal effects from a gas giant can pump hugely varying amounts of energy into a moon.

    Of course, radiation may be a concern for most DNA based life (some DNA based life, like tardigrads are remarkably resilient though). I don't know why some gas giants like Jupiter have lethal (to us) amounts of radiation while others don't. So maybe this is a non-issue.

    So maybe we should be looking for exo-moons orbiting gas giants in the habitable zone! How many are there? Obviously I don't know but there don't seem to be any dearth of gas giants orbiting other stars. As for the number of moons orbiting these gas giants, who knows but judging from our own solar system (Jupiter has 33 satellites of which 4 are "large") it seems that one or more would be at the right distance from the planet to benefit (but not too much) from tidal energy. Just for an example imagine if Jupiter was in the habitable zone. All the Galilean satellites except Io would be excellent candidates for COMPLEX life (presumably underwater).

    What wavelength radio waves penetrate underwater? Maybe SETI should be listening on those frequencies! :)

  • FTL communications are most likely not possible with quantum entanglement but could it allow communication without signal degradation?

  • by zill (1690130) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @03:50PM (#38328792)

    Then there is the intense gravitational field of Jupiter, which will require a lot of fuel to get into Jovian and then Europan orbit. (It's equivalent to traveling amongst the inner planets!)

    Can someone please explain why a strong gravitational field would require more fuel? Wouldn't a stronger pull require less fuel to get there since the Jovian gravity is pulling you there?

    • by Solandri (704621) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @04:24PM (#38329128)

      Can someone please explain why a strong gravitational field would require more fuel? Wouldn't a stronger pull require less fuel to get there since the Jovian gravity is pulling you there?

      You have to remember that there's no friction in space. Going down a gravity well is easy, but stopping at the bottom requires energy. It's like a roller coaster heading down from a peak, with Jupiter at the bottom. As you approach Jupiter, it's gravity will speed you up (relative to Jupiter). Unless you put in energy to counteract that extra speed, you shoot past and fly right up the other side of the gravity well (up the next peak).

      That said, the summary is wrong. Jupiter has lots of moons. You can do the opposite of a gravitational slingshot. Approach the moon from the forward direction, and thereby transfer some of your kinetic energy to the moon. Do it enough times and you're in Jupiter's orbit. That's pretty much how Galileo and Cassini were inserted into orbits around Jupiter and Saturn. You only need fuel or aerobraking to enter into orbit around planets without large moons, like Mars.

      • Actually there are limits to what gravitational assists can do (unless one s waiting to spend a loooong time, using the "interplanetary highway" of chaotic gravitational influences). About a third of Galileo and half of Cassini's mass was propellent needed for the initial capture burn (and subsequent "retargeting burns" needed by the probes to, yes, take advantage of the gravitational assists).

        In addition, neither probe tried to go into ORBIT around any of the moons in which case gravitational slingshots f

  • Not surprised (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Saturday December 10, 2011 @04:27PM (#38329146) Homepage Journal

    Note that it says "NASA May Send Landers to Europa", not "SpaceX..." or "Private space exploration firms....".

    Private industry can never replace the important need for publicly funded, government sponsored exploration of space.

    Lewis and Clark were not funded by "private industry". They could not have been funded by private industry, and if they could have been, it would have made it a much less wonderful expedition.

    • In socialist Canada, the exploration of our west was privately funded by the Hudson Bay Company, and they covered a lot more area and were at it before Lewis and Clark.
      • The potential to get some immediate return on investment was much higher, though. Once you discovered anything interesting (not even necessarily gold, there are plenty of prospective resources), it wasn't hard to entice some settlers to move there and start producing. The way it is with space right now, all research is going to be of no use economically for decades.

    • Re:Not surprised (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Nyeerrmm (940927) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @06:23PM (#38330146)

      Is anyone arguing with that? I'm a commercial space proponent and I work on NASA-funded planetary science missions.

      The commercial space community states explicitly that NASA should be performing the "Lewis and Clark" job -- in fact thats the exact phrase we use. However, rides to orbit are no longer cutting edge technology, and have a proven opportunity for profit, and this is why we call for the government to stop insisting on its own launchers and use commercially available ones wherever possible, and to foster a market where it is possible to form one.

      In planetary science we actively support this model, since Juno, MSL and GRAIL (the three recently launched missions) all launched on commercially purchased launch vehicles (though ULA is a bit of a monopoly so its not the healthiest commercial market).

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        Is anyone arguing with that?

        Yes, an entire wing of the Republican Party believes that private industry does everything better than government.

    • by ArcherB (796902)

      Note that it says "NASA May Send Landers to Europa", not "SpaceX..." or "Private space exploration firms....".

      Private industry can never replace the important need for publicly funded, government sponsored exploration of space.

      Lewis and Clark were not funded by "private industry". They could not have been funded by private industry, and if they could have been, it would have made it a much less wonderful expedition.

      Yes, Lewis and Clark were funded by government, but they were private individuals, just as Space-X will be funded by government, but remain a private company. You could have also used Columbus as an example, but he too was government funded.

      No one is saying that government should get out of space exploration. They are saying that government should play more of a management/executive role and less of a worker role. In other words, the government should say, "Space-X, I want to go to Jupiter" instead of "N

  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @04:37PM (#38329232) Journal
    Of course we could do both. We could do a bunch of them. Just give the F35 a skip or not build another aircraft carrier or some other useless piece of military hardware, or not bail out yet another bank that took your pension fund to the casino and put it all on Red 37. And lost.
    • by decora (1710862) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @05:22PM (#38329600) Journal

      the massive number of pointless military bases, oceans of bureaucracy, contractors that chage twice as much to do the same work as govt employees, contractors with corrupt links to govt leaders who decide who gets the money, pointless projects that spend billions and are cancelled halfway through planning stages.

      the US military is essentially one gigantic social welfare program.

      the only way to get a space program going is to spread the production out to various places, so that congress can suckle the fat teat of mother federal government and bring that bacon home to their districts.

  • If I remember right, there was a much more ambitious plan to send two probes to Europa, wired together. One of them would stay on the surface and communicate with Earth, while the other would use the heat of it's reactor to melt through the ice, sending back electricity and gathered information to the surface module through the wire.

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