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Space NASA

Inside the Mission To Europa (arstechnica.com) 106

An anonymous reader writes: Ars Technica details the political and engineering battles being waged to make it possible for NASA to land a probe on Jupiter's moon Europa. They have new information about mission plans; it sounds ambitious, to say the least. "First, the bad news. Adding a lander to the Clipper will require additional technical work and necessitate a launch delay until late 2023. At that time, the massive Space Launch System rocket NASA is developing could deliver it to Jupiter in 4.6 years. Once there, the lander would separate from the Clipper, parking in a low-radiation orbit.

The Clipper would then proceed to reconnoiter Europa, diving into the harsh radiation environment to observe the moon and then zipping back out into cleaner space to relay its data back to Earth. Over a three-year period, the Clipper would image 95 percent of the world at about 50 meters per pixel and three percent at a very high resolution of 0.5 meters per pixel. With this data, scientists could find a suitable landing site. ...The JPL engineers have concluded the best way to deliver the lander to Europa's jagged surface is by way of a sky crane mechanism, like the one successfully used in the last stage of Curiosity's descent to the surface of Mars. With four steerable engines and an autonomous system to avoid hazards, the lander would be lowered to the moon's surface by an umbilical cord."

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Inside the Mission To Europa

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  • uh oh (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "all these worlds
    are yours except
    europa
    attempt no
    landing there
    use them together
    use them in peace"

  • High impact shell that the probe emerges from in a nice safe crater.

    You could even create the crater first if you wanted to keep things simple.

    • by Ken_g6 ( 775014 )

      High impact shell that the probe emerges from in a nice safe crater.

      You could even create the crater first if you wanted to keep things simple.

      Gees. Lots of them. We don't have inertial dampeners.

      • Gees. Lots of them. We don't have inertial dampeners.

        Sure we do, it's called a combination of padding and sufficiently robust construction to withstand high G forces.

        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          You do realize that you're talking about decelerating from a *minimum* of 1432 m/s (3426 mph) on impact. That's *if* you've already slowed down into the lowest possible orbit skimming right over the surface. Hitting straight from a Europa-intercept trajectory from Earth would be vastly faster.

          "Padding" is not going to cut it. These sorts of impacts convert their impactors to plasma.

  • All these worlds are yours, except Europa
    Attempt no landings there.

  • Why are we shooting for the moon instead of NEO?

    We can't even get a man into space without Russia. Did we silently just lose the Cold War's Space Race?

    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

      by orpheus ( 14534 ) on Tuesday November 17, 2015 @05:00PM (#50951237)

      SpaceX's Dragon has already launched to orbit 8 times, including 6 full resupply missions to ISS, autonomously. It rides the Falcon-9, which has successfully reached orbit 18 times.

      The manned Dragon capsule configuration (aka Dragon 2) is expected to do a demo flight in about a year. It was delayed by the accident investigation due to one faulty support spar (of which thousands had already flown) in May of this year. Falcon 9 is scheduled to return to flight in about a month, but it has a backlog of missions/payload before it can fly the Dragon 2 Demo flight, currently expected in the second half of 2016.

      Yeah, we temporarily stumbled on manned space flight -- but we've done so before (e.g. after the two Shuttle disasters). It's not permanent.

      • Better still, the PR fallout from that accident doesn't begin to compare to those involving manned shuttles. Launches and reentries are generally the most dangerous part of a mission, but so long as nobody dies the risks can be handled from a purely financial perspective. And so long as you've budgeted for it a financial hit can is a lot easier to recover from than a media one.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Hello USA, can we please NOT derail a NASA discussion for once by not mention any presidents/parties/administrations ?
    Your believe that it is relevant to the topic at hand is ridiculous. It is not. NASA is just a pawn in the political battlefield, easily sacrificed for other interests, like appeasing the constituency at one or another place.

    Space projects require long term vision, and by the constant changing of the goal posts the last 20 or 30 years or so both parties have shown not to have it.

  • by WormholeFiend ( 674934 ) on Tuesday November 17, 2015 @03:48PM (#50950633)

    to land a sample extractor and launch it back to Earth?

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      sample extractor and launch it back to Earth?

      and risk bringing back killer bacteria we have no immunity for? We don't want to win the Galactic Darwin Award (although certain groups seem to be trying).

      Plus, sending enough fuel to escape the Jupiter system's gravity is not going to be trivial.

    • by Sowelu ( 713889 ) on Tuesday November 17, 2015 @05:09PM (#50951301)

      My way too many hours of Kerbal Space Program make me highly qualified (joke) to say that bringing something back is way harder than just putting stuff there. If you make a later stage twice as big, you need to make every stage leading up to it twice as big as well. Getting samples back up to orbit adds some nontrivially bigger engines and more fuel, even moreso when you think about landing that extra load, and making the orbiter come back to Earth may or may not need bigger engines but will certainly need more fuel. You could get rid of some of the lander's instrument packages and just process things back home, but that's risking an awful lot on a ton of new things that could go wrong... liftoff could fail, rendezvous could fail, anything could fail along the way home, and there's lots more radiation you have to eat.

      On-site analysis is much cheaper and more reliable.

      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        And besides, you'll surely forget to bring a ladder or something and not realize it until you've hopped off to get samples, and then you have to send a whole new mission to rescue them.... invariably leaving your rescuers stranded as well....

        Solution: more struts.

        Are you listening, NASA? EUROPA CLIPPER NEEDS MORE STRUTS!

    • to land a sample extractor and launch it back to Earth?

      Any craft that can extract a sample at Europa is a craft that can do Curiosity-grade microanalysis of the sample on site much more quickly and cost-effectively than it could do any Earth return.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...but when are we going to embark on a mission of true impact: the manned space mission to the sun!

    Now, I know you have doubts, chief among them, "Isn't it really hot on the sun?" Fortunately, there is a simple solution: we will go at night.

    • ...but when are we going to embark on a mission of true impact: the manned space mission to the sun!

      Now, I know you have doubts, chief among them, "Isn't it really hot on the sun?" Fortunately, there is a simple solution: we will go at night.

      Ah, the old ones truly are the best.

  • Rather than a heavy multi-step risky crane landing system, why not spend the weight to juice up the in-orbit plume sniffer? If the moon pukes stuff toward the orbiter, then there is no need to land to sample it: sniff it while flying. Or, is there simply not enough material ejected to analyze well?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    With any luck we can get "Syrian refugees" to confuse "Europa" with "Europe".

    I'm betting Angela Merkel just changed her mind [telegraph.co.uk] about letting more "Syrian refugees" into Germany...

    • Be careful about mocking the unfortunate. You may not be so lucky yourself one day.
      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        If only we had some sort of seasonally-appropriate story about middle-eastern people seeking refuge being turned away by the heartless.

  • This delightful lander will arrive on Europa in 2028. How fascinating it will be for the human race to know--two years before we ourselves become extinct in 2030 ( that is, in 15 years ) because of Methane released from Arctic permafrost [youtu.be]--what has been going on in Europa all these billions of years.
    • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Tuesday November 17, 2015 @05:37PM (#50951479)

      If we all die in 2030 it will sure be a relief we don't have to worry about the year 2038 [wikipedia.org] bug!

    • If you had actually watched the video, you would see that the Chicken Little in question merely said that he couldn't imagine anyone alive in 2030. I can imagine the things this guy isn't capable of imagining which solves the actual problem stated in the video.

      And given that an elevated level of methane is not actually an existential threat (it just makes things a little warming, sea level a little higher, and interiors of continents a little drier), then not only is it not an existential threat, but th
      • I watched the video carefully. Did you not note the "Wow" moment, when Nye takes off his bow tie, smokes a cigarette and drinks whiskey from the bottle? That bit of theatricality was there to emphasize how horrible the problem mentioned at that point: "Methane coming out of the Arctic permafrost" was brought up. If you know the slightest thing about chemistry you would not say that Methane is nothing to worry about. The hubris you expose--in assuming that we can somehow come up with a technology-based world
        • by khallow ( 566160 )
          It's sad you are too hysterical to think about this. There is no evidence to support this empty bit of theater - a situation which won't change in 2030.

          Methane has already been documented as flooding up from the Artic.

          No, it hasn't. The rate of methane emissions have increased to some degree, but that's not the same as your alleged "flooding".

            • by khallow ( 566160 )
              Come back when you have evidence.
              • This is definitive [youtube.com]. Watch the whole thing.
                • by khallow ( 566160 )
                  Evidence not bullshit. I thought I was pretty clear on what I wanted here. We would still see hysterical YouTube videos like this in the complete absence of climate change effects.
                  • So you didn't watch it, obviously. It was full of professional scientists giving evidence. You know, idiot, I don't need to prove this to you. The proof will be coming and then you will feel like an idiot, which you are.
                    • by khallow ( 566160 )
                      I skimmed it, but I'm not going to watch it. Even the more hysterical climate researchers can point to written research to back their claims.

                      You know, idiot, I don't need to prove this to you.

                      When 2030 comes, you just need to watch and learn.'

                      The proof will be coming and then you will feel like an idiot, which you are.

                      When the proof comes, then get back to me. Don't waste my time otherwise.

                    • You're a shallow, low-effort thinker. I hope that you are gifted with a painful reminder, in the future, of your attitude--which is akin to tripping the firemen trying to carry buckets to put out the fire. You don't know, and are willing to risk everything on your "low-effort thinker" conclusion that, "No, I know better than all those scientists", the same ones that made the computer you're writing on now. Those scientists got everything else right but --"NO, can't be"--those same scientists are all wrong,
                    • by khallow ( 566160 )
                      You yet again provide nothing to think about except some cowardly hand wringing. Look at the actual evidence. Don't continue to be a fool.
                    • Do you wonder why they bothered to form a group called the Arctic Methane Emergency Group [ameg.me]? Just so they could meet and drink tea?
                      The data presented here [youtube.com] is extremely compelling, as is this [youtube.com].
                    • by khallow ( 566160 )

                      Do you wonder why they bothered to form a group called the Arctic Methane Emergency Group?

                      Because there's big money in crisis management.

                    • Really. That's your explanation? That's the be-all and end-all of this problem? Scientists are faking it to make money?
              • Are you looking for concrete scientific information on the evidence or are you just looking to be convinced?
                • by khallow ( 566160 )

                  Are you looking for concrete scientific information on the evidence or are you just looking to be convinced?

                  Yes. Now put up or shut up.

                  • Here [youtube.com], wiseass. Don't come back unless you have scientifically based evidence refuting what is in that video, which consists of dozens of actual scientists giving their evidence. Now, personally from your fellow human, I can tell you to fuck off and die.
    • by dlt074 ( 548126 )

      you'd think the religion of climate would have learned by now to stop making grandiose predictions in such short time frames. by the year $YEAR, we'll have no more $X and all $Y will be gone!!! let alone predicting the mass extinction of humans. that's just silly. i've lived through far too many of these false prophecies, and have come to see their real purpose. which is to give control over your life to their cult, or be labeled a denier/skeptic/heretic.

      and to question is forbidden.

      • The problem with Climate Change is your point of decision comes 10 years before you notice the effects. You're just another ostrich.
  • Nothing necessitates 8 year to launch schedule except a tight program budget stretched out over time. There are decent Jupiter launch windows every 2 years or so:

    http://clowder.net/hop/railroa... [clowder.net]

But it does move! -- Galileo Galilei

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