Home > Space > Life on Mars? Not likely. What about Jupiter’s Europa?

Life on Mars? Not likely. What about Jupiter’s Europa?

Source: National Geographic News

Early Mars Too Acidic, Salty for Life, Experts Say

Mars likely had liquid water early in its past—but it was probably too acidic and oxidizing for life, scientists say.

That’s the latest news from the longer-than-expected visits to the red planet by NASA’s rovers Spirit and Opportunity, said Andrew Knoll, a Harvard University researcher and member of NASA’s Mars program.

“That’s not a very good place to live, and it’s a worse place for the kind of chemistry that we think gave rise to life on Earth,” he said.

“If I were forced to vote, probably the best place to look for evidence of Martian life is in Mars’ earliest history—the first five or six hundred million years,” Knoll said.

Well, that doesn’t sound too exciting. Maybe we oughta look in a different place then. What about a Jupiter’s moon called Europa?

Europa is a unique moon of Jupiter that has fascinated scientists for hundreds of years. Its surface is among the brightest in the solar system, a consequence of sunlight reflecting off a relatively young icy crust. Its face is also among the smoothest, lacking the heavily cratered appearance characteristic of Callisto and Ganymede. Lines and cracks wrap the exterior as if a child had scribbled around it. Europa may be internally active, and its crust may have, or had in the past, liquid water which can harbor life.

About forty years ago, modern astronomer Gerard Kuiper and others showed that Europa’s crust was composed of water and ice. In the 1970s, space exploration of Jupiter’s satellite system began with the Pioneer and Voyager fly-by missions which verified Kuiper’s analysis of Europa and discovered other characteristics.

A moon with ice, possibly water. Yeh, that sounds like a good place to start.

“And if nothing else, we can just melt the ice, right?”

If we can get an oven big enough down there and provided that it has oxygen and/or other stuff that allows things to burn, sure. Then again, considering that the entire moon is covered in ice, it must be a pretty chilly place around that moon/planet. Still, a moon with nothing but ice, that’s almost like a fairy tale. I’d love to check out that place. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem likely anytime soon.

Source: NASA

Europa Mission: Lost In NASA Budget

NASA’s newly issued budget has lowered a flagship mission of exploration to half-mast. Backed by scientists and study groups, a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa is missing in action within the pages of NASA’s Fiscal Year 2007 budget unveiled yesterday.

However, all hope is not yet lost, there are at least two other programs which can stimulate the progress of exploring Europe. The article mentions the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Jovian Minisat Explorer (JME) and NASA’s own Juno program.

So fingers crossed!

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  1. Richard Greenberg
    December 4, 2008 at 1:28 AM

    For more info about Europa, see my new book “Unmasking Europa: The Search for Life on Jupiter’s Ocean Moon”, by Richard Greenberg, 2008, Springer/Copernicus Books.

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