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Space Science

Discovery Increases Odds of Life On Europa 164

tetrahedrassface writes "Observations of spectral emissions from the surface of Europa using state of the art ground based telescopes here on Earth have lent data that indicate the surface of the Jovian moon is linked with the vast ocean below. The observations carried out by Caltech's Mike Brown and JPL's Kevin Hand show that water is making it from the ocean below all the way up to the surface of the moon. In their study (PDF) they noticed a dip in the emission bands around lower latitudes of the moon, and quickly honed in on what they were seeing. The mineral of interest is epsomite, a magnesium sulfate compound that can only come from the ocean below. From the article: 'Magnesium should not be on the surface of Europa unless it's coming from the ocean,' Brown says. 'So that means ocean water gets onto the surface, and stuff on the surface presumably gets into the ocean water.' Not only does this mean the ocean and surface are dynamically interacting, but it also means that there may be more energy in the ocean than previously thought. Another finding is that the ocean below the icy surface of Europa is basically very similar to an ocean on Earth, giving the neglected and premier solar body for life past Earth another compelling reason for being explored."
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Discovery Increases Odds of Life On Europa

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  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @09:30PM (#43087215) Homepage Journal

    The problem is that a Eurpoa rover would need to be powered by an RTG, which means you have to send a vehicle about the size of curiosity. So thats 1000kg that you have to land. Maybe the descent stage would be another 1000kg to get you from low orbit to the surface. Then that 2 tonne package has to be powered into the gravitational fields of Jupiter and Eurpoa. You are talking about a lot of fuel. Galileo just barely went into an elliptical orbit. In energy terms that is a long way from a landing. My rough guess is that the total mass of the vehicle would be 10 tonnes in low earth orbit. Maybe more.

    Maybe it could only be done with a proper fission reactor and ion drives.

  • by mooingyak ( 720677 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @11:32PM (#43088377)

    So thats 1000kg...

    Nobody ever says Megagram, or Megameter either for that matter. I for one would like to see that become commonplace.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @05:29AM (#43090401)

    Actually, I have a distinct recollection of how some Nasa engineer had a probe design in mind that would work. It would melt itself through several kilometers of ice in a few months and leave a cable behind connecting it to a transmitter on the surface. I don't think it's too hard for engineers that are capable of constructing such a probe to stick a couple of propellers on it for diving. Although, I don't know about appropriate precautions to prevent it from ending up as an appetizer for some Europian super sharks. Maybe mirrors to reflect lasers..?

The primary function of the design engineer is to make things difficult for the fabricator and impossible for the serviceman.