Jupiter's Moon Europa


Jupiter's Moon Europa

Europa is probably the next step of space exploration after Mars, since it's a place that is likely to hide life. Many think there's life under the thick layer of ice that we see from space, and that like in 2010 Odyssey fo Arthur C Clarke, there could be some secrets under the surface.

Here's a very quick description of Europa on Wikipedia:
At just over 3000 km in diameter, Europa is slightly smaller than Earth's Moon and is the sixth-largest moon in the Solar System. Though by a wide margin the least massive of the Galilean satellites, its mass nonetheless significantly exceeds the combined mass of all moons in the Solar System smaller than itself. It is primarily made of silicate rock and likely has an iron core. It has a tenuous atmosphere composed primarily of oxygen. Its surface is composed of ice and is one of the smoothest in the Solar System. This young surface is striated by cracks and streaks, while craters are relatively infrequent. The apparent youth and smoothness of the surface have led to the hypothesis that a water ocean exists beneath it, which could conceivably serve as an abode for extraterrestrial life. Heat energy from tidal flexing ensures that the ocean remains liquid and drives geological activity.

Some plans are currently in developpement for a mission to be launched in 2015. There are sometimes quick updates in the news about testings of small submarines/underwater robots in deep waters on Earth. Here's one of these articles from Physorg:
Managed by a team from Chicago and Texas, the robot has hit its marks while patrolling Lake Bonney, a body of water locked under 15 feet of ice. The Antarctic lake is the nearest thing on Earth to outer space, and scientists hope lessons learned there will inform a future hunt for life in the ice-covered oceans of Jupiter's frozen moon Europa.

Scientists named the robot ENDURANCE (for Environmentally Non-Disturbing Under-ice Robotic ANtarctiC Explorer) in a nod to the ship Sir Ernest Shackleton was forced to abandon on his failed Antarctic expedition a century ago.
Click for full article on Physorg.com

Perhaps we will see one of these robots explorer Europa in the next 20 years, if NASA is lucky enouht to get the probe there in working condition. Many probes sent to Mars used to crash on the surface instead of landing. Let's hope those they send to Europa wil survive the trip. Europa is much further than Mars, it's quite a long journey to get there, it's a long wait for nothing if it crashes on its landing. I wonder if they're thinking of bringing back stuff on Earth. I can't imagine how they could get the robot back to the surface and make it fly back to Earth.
Here's another article about what could be under the ice of Jupiter's moon:

Jupiter's Moon Europa: What Could Be Under The Ice?