Europe To Humanity: It’s Time To Astro-Probe The Jovian System

Posted by on May 6, 2012 in Callisto, Europa, Europe, Ganymede, Jupiter | 0 comments

Forget mapquesting Ganymede! It looks like Europe will spend a billion euro’s in order to launch JUICE (which stands for JUpiter ICy moon Explorer) find out more about Jupiter’s lunar children two decades from now (2030 for those who want to know).

ESA plans to pack the solar-powered spacecraft with a suite of instruments, which will collect high-resolution pictures as well as data on the moons’ chemical compositions, magnetic environments, and surface features.

During its roughly three-year mission, JUICE will perform two flybys of Europa, examining that moon’s icy crust in search of sites for future exploration, perhaps by a lander.

Then, after a dozen flybys of Callisto, the spacecraft will slip into orbit around Ganymede in 2032 and will study Jupiter’s largest moon for nearly a year.

“The ice shells of Ganymede and Europa serve as a window to the oceans below,” Hand said. That’s because, as in the Arctic on Earth, the surface ice is most likely born from oceans below, and so will carry information about the liquid water’s chemical composition. (National Geographic)

JUICE will also observer the relationship Jupiter has with the three Jovian moons (Callisto, Europa and Ganymede) as well as analyze each world for subterranean oceans.

Unfortunately humanity will be unable to visit Europa due to Jupiter’s radiation belts, although JUICE could help us identify potential spots to establish outposts upon Callisto as well as Ganymede (the latter which could be used as the bread basket of the Jovian system thanks in part to it’s magnetic field).

While JUICE’s purpose is to help us discover alien life upon other worlds, it’s launch and Jovian encounter could help prepare our species for spreading terrestrial life upon Jupiter’s outer Galilean moons.

Video Hat tip: Spaceports

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Surviving The Wrath Of Jupiter (By Mapping Its Radiation Belts)

Posted by on Jan 21, 2009 in Blog, Europa, Ganymede, Health, Jupiter | 0 comments

Despite being arrayed in a dazzling display of colors (whether in stripes or spots), Jupiter is not one of the safest locations to establish a colony thanks in part to radiation (with the only exception being the lunar moon Callisto).

In order for humanity to survive upon Jupiter’s other moons, we may need to create a radiation map for future settlers.

(Astrobiology Magazine) It’s dangerous to remain too long inside the radiation belts of Jupiter. The high-energy particles can damage space probes, and they also can destroy biological molecules or other signatures of life that might exist on inner moons like Europa. A new study plans to determine just how hazardous an impact the radiation belts have on the Jovian system. [...]

Patterson and his colleagues are building a detailed map of the surface of Europa and another map of its sister moon Ganymede. The project—led by Louise Prockter of John Hopkins University as part of NASA’s Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology program—will identify dead zones where radiation would likely fry any interesting chemical compounds, as well as possible safe havens that might harbor material expelled from the ocean below.

While it is probably doubtful that Europa will visited by anything but robots (as its frozen bare surface is bathed in Jupiter’s deadly radiation belts), its bigger brother Ganymede may show more promise in the long run (especially if adequate shielding is built for the Jovian settlements).

Either way a radiation map will benefit future explorers (and robots) who may be able to locate valuable resources upon Jupiter’s Galilean satellites.

(Image Credit: NASA / JPL)

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Which Worlds Should Humanity Skip?

Posted by on Sep 12, 2007 in Blog, Charon, Europa, Io, Jupiter, Mercury, Neptune, Pluto, Saturn, Solar Essay, Uranus, Venus | 2 comments


With our species blessed with 83 worlds that orbit our home star, why would we choose to settle some and skip the rest? After all, would it not be in humanities best interest to spread our glory over every celestial moon, planet and dwarf planet?

While covering every centimeter of every orbiting sphere may sound glorious, it may not be practical (or even desired) by our future descendants. Just as the human race chooses to (mainly) live within fertile valley’s and hills over deserts and mountains, so to our children may opt to skip worlds with “too much hassle” involved in settling them.

A prime example of this would be Mercury. Although humanity may posses the capability of colonizing this sphere, its close orbit towards the Sun may make it uninhabitable, at least during the day time (thanks to solar radiation).

Even though Mercury may contain many precious metals beneath its baked crust, it will probably never boast large metropolis’s upon its surface, unless Earth decides to turn it into a planetary penal colony.

Moving outward to Venus, one could easily realize why humanity would never ever want to set foot on the planet, let alone through its thick atmosphere. The atmospheric pressure on Venus is about 90 times that of Earth, strong enough to crush a human unprotected.

Hosting sulfuric acid within its upper clouds, Venus may be more valuable as an interplanetary garbage dump than a viable colony (even for science).

Over in the Jovian system, Jupiter’s moon Io shares a similar fate to Venus. Although lacking an atmosphere, Io does house numerous volcanoes upon its surface, some of which spew hot sulfur hundreds of kilometers from its surface.

Even if scientists were able to withstand the deadly radiation that engulfs this world, they would probably not enjoy swimming in one of Io’s numerous lava lakes.

Despite the fact that Io’s lunar sister is known to harbor an abundance of water ice, Europa may only gather a mournful glance from a few scientists observing from Ganymede. Even though many scientists suspect that Europa may have oceans beneath its surface, the world is jealously guarded by its father Jupiter, who bathes its lunar daughter in deadly radiation.

While some have suggested digging a hole beneath the icy surface, doing so may only guarantee ones fate within the icy walls, as Europa has a fairly active surface, which could result in one getting crushed by its icy “tectonic plates.”

When it comes to radiation, Saturn’s ring worlds do not seem to fare any better than Europa. While the icy moons of Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, and Rhea may find their surfaces scoured by robots (in search of water ice), these lunar bodies unfortunately orbit within Saturn’s radiation belts.

Even though engineers will probably find a way to shield themselves with artificial magnetic fields (or even create enormous planetary versions), the added cost of doing so may make living on these worlds too expensive for the “average space colonist.”

The moons of Uranus and Neptune who dance around their green and blue parents, respectively may share a similar fate to their Saturian cousins.

Although its quite possible that these moons may eventually be settled by humanity, they may find themselves harboring space pirates (to the delight of solar governments everywhere) as their distance from Earth and lack of nearby resources may make them unattractive for the masses.

Heading out towards the Kuiper belt, one wonders whether humanity will have the attention span of settling any of these frozen objects at the edge of our solar system.

Although colonizing both Pluto and Charon could provide a few engineering delights, one wonders if humanity may simply decide to ignore these historical relics as they head out to other promising star systems.

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Carnival Of The Space Geeks (19th Edition)

Posted by on Sep 10, 2007 in Blog, Europa, Mars, Rhea, Space Geeks, Technology | 0 comments


Last week’s Carnival of Space was hosted by Fraser Cain from Universe Today.

Although the submissions were few and far between as people were probably getting caught up with work, school or returning from glorious vacations “away from it all”.

For the few who are committed to the cause of enlightening us all, here are a sample of the few posts that were submitted:

  • Brian Wang from Advanced Nanotechnology has an interesting post about the Orion spacecraft refueling itself in mid-flight (note: if only Brian ran NASA).
  • Emily Lakdawalla via The Planetary Society Blog enlightens everyone on how you can take the various “puzzle pieces” of Rhea and put them together.
  • Louise Riofrio of A Babe in the Universe reports on some interesting news regarding Buzz Aldrin at the Mars Society conference (note: Fraser and I both wish we were able to attend).
  • Fraser Cain, the one who hosted this entire event discusses submarines for Europa (an idea Seaquest explored many moons ago).

For those of you interested in submitting articles for the next Carnival of Space, Henry Cate has the details.

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Radiation Proof Space Camera's?

Posted by on Aug 28, 2007 in Blog, Europa, Ganymede, Jupiter, Technology | 0 comments

(Image: Radiation hardened camera’s could help locate oceans on Europa. Credit: NASA via MSNBC)


Carbon based life forms are not the only ones to fear deadly radiation. Apparently, our cybernetic friends loathe the energetic particles just as much, although they lack the will of HAL to do anything about it.

Previously whenever scientists sent camera’s into the radiation depths of the Jovian giant Jupiter, by degrading the circuits over time. A new invention however may enable these cameras to withstand the fury of Jupiter’s radiation tantrums.

(MSNBC) The technology driving the new detector is a capturing system that immediately converts electromagnetic signals into digital information, pixel by pixel. The method bypasses the standard pathway traveled by analog signals from sensors to the point where the signal is converted to digital data.

High-energy radioactive particles in space degrade these circuits, or pathways, over time and add to noise in the data by making pixels appear artificially bright. [...]

“Our detector converts the analog signal to a digital number within the pixel,” Figer told LiveScience. “Radiation does not have time to affect the signal. And once the data is digitized it’s essentially impossible to pick up noise.”

This technology should help aid future colonists, especially if they consider establishing outposts on Europa or colonizing Ganymede.

This also might aid scientists in observing the turbulent weather that dominates the Sol star’s largest planet within its system.

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Finding Life On Europa…Via Earth?

Posted by on Sep 13, 2006 in Blog, Europa, Jupiter, Life, Science | 0 comments

A team has set out to the cold regions of the Arctic in order to discover the source of sulfur that has been appearing there for some time. They hope that these discoveries could help us locate life on a distant frozen world orbiting Jupiter.

(Astrobiology Magazine) “It’s out of the norm,” Pappalardo says. “Biology is expected to play a part in this. The fact that all [these forms of sulfur] were present in close proximity suggests that life is involved.”

While Pappalardo acknowledges that Europa’s outer surface contains too much radiation to ever support life, these findings could help answer the question as to whether life could exist below the surface of Europa.

I am not too sure how successful they will be, as Enceladus looks more promising, but a discovery of life on a foreign lunar body would help motivate humanity towards the stars.

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