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Space NASA

Is Europa Too Prickly To Land On? 140

astroengine writes "A deadly bed of icy javelins — known as penitentes — could be awaiting any spacecraft that tries to land on some parts of the ice-covered world Europa, say researchers who have carefully modeled the ice processes at work on parts of the Jovian moon to detect features beyond the current low resolution images. If the prediction of long vertical blades of ice is correct, it will not only help engineers design a lander to tame or avoid the sabers, but also help explain a couple of nagging mysteries about the strange moon. 'This is a game changer,' said planetary scientist Don Blankenship of the University of Texas in Austin. Blankenship has been involved in NASA's planning process for sending a reconnaissance spacecraft and eventually a lander to Europa."
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Is Europa Too Prickly To Land On?

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  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Monday October 28, 2013 @04:51PM (#45262601) Homepage

    What part of "Attempt no landing there" don't you people understand?

  • "All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there. Use them together. Use them in peace."
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Is that the number 1 answer from David Letterman's Top Ten list: How to get humans to Europa?

    • by hurfy ( 735314 )

      They checked the future and saw our bouncing ball lander for Mars and..........

      or maybe they just don't want to clean up the mess impaled humans make.

      • or maybe they just don't want to clean up the mess impaled humans make.

        On Europa?

        You could just whack them with a hammer and sweep up the dust!

  • by schneidafunk ( 795759 ) on Monday October 28, 2013 @04:52PM (#45262617)

    They solved breaking up ice years ago. Send the titanic.

  • Send a nuke as a landing zone herald.
    And pray to your diety of choice that 2001 wasn't made in correspondence with aliens.

    • by pspahn ( 1175617 )

      I thought it was already well-known that 2001 (the movie kind) was made so that the US Gov't could practice filming the Apollo landings.

      Isn't that what pretty much all the following Kubrick films were trying to explain? Little Danny's Apollo sweater... The symbolism of Eyes Wide Shut...

    • No need for an actual nuke, any impactor would do the job.

      Which, in a dirty solar system, means there are already fresh craters available.

  • NASA first priority needs to be a gravity repulse engine.

  • Haven't we been using explosives to clear the landing one of tall brush, inconvenient locals, and anything else for at least decades now?

    Nothing says 'we come in peace' quite like blasting the site flat before touchdown!
    • That gets to be a bit more tricky.

      You need a large enough explosive to clear a landing area that you think you can hit. Considering the weight limitations of sending things that far, that most likely is a nuke. Then when the lander lands in a sea of radioactive water, does it freeze around it? Do you wait for the surface to freeze into a hard crust, or do you wait until it completely hardens?

      What of the life you are looking for? Perhaps its not able to survive a nuclear bomb? This means that you
      • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

        No need for explosives. A large slug of metal maybe 200kg moving at high speed is all you need is all you need. Maybe even a large chunk of ice...

        • Which means there are likely already fresh craters. So all you really need is high resolution image of the Europan surface. Which is something that both planetary scientists and lander designers would probably like having anyway.

  • Hmmm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by GeneralEmergency ( 240687 ) on Monday October 28, 2013 @05:00PM (#45262695) Journal


    I, for one, suggest a low altitude detonation of a low-yield thermo-nuclear device at any potential landing sites prior to the landing attempt.

    This should glass over the LZ and let any locals know that papa's coming home and he's pissed.


  • by gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Monday October 28, 2013 @05:04PM (#45262731)

    as just mean spirited, bureaucratic and bad tempered. Why else would we have been warned against landing?

  • ... not completely unrelated and not exactly offtopic, but if we ever land there, I'd like the footage to resemble this: Europa Report [imdb.com].
  • From what I read, these ice formations only form at the equator. So....

    Don't land at the equator. Problem solved..

    • High latitude landings are energetically more demanding. Eats into your payload allowance, which means fewer instruments, which makes it harder to justify your mission against another Mars mission (for example.)

  • I assume Europe is also hard to land on. That would explain why the aliens in Hollywood movies always land in New York or on the front lawn of the White House
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Monday October 28, 2013 @05:51PM (#45263111) Homepage Journal
    And I don't want to tell them how to do their job, but has anyone considered making their space ship out of some sort of "metal"? And maybe put a thing on the bottom that shoots fire out of it?
    • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

      And maybe put a thing on the bottom that shoots fire out of it?

      Or maybe a snow cone machine. Better yet, make the thing on the bottom modular so the astronauts can decide whether they need a drink or a frozen treat.

    • Does anyone actually know the composition of the surface, and how strong these things would be vs. how brittle that allows currently used in spacecraft would be at such low temperatures? Perhaps the metal would shatter?
  • by guruevi ( 827432 ) <evi AT evcircuits DOT com> on Monday October 28, 2013 @05:55PM (#45263135) Homepage

    I put ice javelins in my blender, add some fruit and there you go, a smoothie. So just mount some BlendTec blenders on the bottom of the spacecraft and see if it "will blend". Would be some nice advertisements.

    • I like it... Blending space exploration with adverticeing. Could be a good source of financial support for science and exploration.
  • You throw salt out, hover around a bit, then land. Problem solved. Also, if there is salt left over, use it for the margarita glasses - just be sure to bring fresh limes & decent tequila: obviously you won't need to bring the ice.
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Salt may not work if it's too cold there. However, what about a thick air-bag cocoon upon first landing? After a short survey of the area, squirt out chemicals that melt or soften the surrounding ice?

      The downside is that you corrupt the samples with your ice-melting chemicals. Thus, it may have to be a semi-rover or have a "scoop-and-pull" feature to find better sampling spots.

    • You throw salt out, hover around a bit, then land. Problem solved.

      That only works above 0 degrees F (at least for pure water ice at about 15 PSI pressure). (Which is how 0F was originally defined, by the way.)

  • Stupid NSA (Score:5, Funny)

    by cyber-vandal ( 148830 ) on Monday October 28, 2013 @06:02PM (#45263233) Homepage

    I'm not surprised Europa is a bit prickly at the moment.

    • I'm surprised our politicians don't want to land on Uranus. They've been fucking every other anus for years.

  • Somehow the article neglected to mention the biggest risk of them all ... the local wildlife! [imdb.com]

  • Genetically modified or otherwise. Send seeds, grow teraforming. Obviously there's lots of radiation, but start with something that turns CO2 into C and O2.

    Something kind of pretty so people will want it as a background.

    Get ideas flowing about how to get it done!
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Protip: Plants are Carbon neutral.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Explain peat bogs. Only carbon neutral, when not dug up and used to make fire lighters, and low grade coal substitutes.

        Better (if more verbose) quip:

        Martian atmosphere is 90% co2, and at less than 1 bar pressure. After sequestering the dangerous carbon, what are you going to replace it with? Even if you vulcanize the whole damned surface to release the bound water vapor, the atmosphere still won't be anything like earth's, and you will have just radically reduced the solid mass portion of the planet to an e

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      It's a bit depressing that someone with the reading age to read this site doesn't know enough about Mars to see the holes in that and has not bothered to go to the wikipedia page on the Mars atmosphere before making such a suggestion. There was an question by an eight year old on the "Naked Scientist" radio show about growing plants on Mars that showed far more insight (you can simulate Mars conditions in your freezer with the help of other stuff from the kitchen).
      The problem, as even used as a plot device
  • I've been training for this mission since I was 9. I'm ready, put me in coach, I've got this [colorado.edu]!
  • A massive Styrofoam bottom to the base of a Lander would do the trick.

  • I think the top of Spain is pretty flat. You could probably land there if you can get nestled under that French overhang.

    Other than that, though, yeah, that's way too prickly. The next closest viable landing spot is over on that Brazilian ledge, and even then you'd need to make sure you get a firm perch so you don't slip off and fall to the Antarctic floor below.

  • My first thought after reading the headline was about the Java IDE, not the Jovian satellite.
  • mandatory (Score:3, Funny)

    by dutchwhizzman ( 817898 ) on Monday October 28, 2013 @07:21PM (#45263989)
    Think Europa is prickly? Unless it's freshly shaven, how about Uranus? *badum tish* (gets his coat)
    • Think Europa is prickly? Unless it's freshly shaven, how about Uranus?

      *badum tish* (gets his coat)

      Given the nature of the joke, would not dabum tush have been a better rimshot?

  • To everyone suggesting blasting the landing zone flat, have you considered what sort of scientific data we could recover from from a site that's been razed with Earth explosives? If this ice is enough to ruin a spacecraft, then anything capable of dealing with it on a scale needed for a safe landing is going to fling contaminating detritus for probably miles. So we could land, and... then what?
    • You land. Then jump out of the spacecraft, plant the stars and stripes and scream USA! USA! USA!

      What else would you do after nuking an innocent planet?

  • by darkHanzz ( 2579493 ) on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @02:48AM (#45266315) Journal
    Just saying...
  • Recent observations have brought to light the fact that a large part of the planet earth is covered by tall sabers of what appears to be carbon based material called trees. "This is a game changer" said some asshole who gets paid to think this shit up.


    What do I have to do to get a fvcking job making up useless shit.
  • Some sort of RADAR device may be required for landers.

  • Sounds like my second wife - no fucking point landing on her either.

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell