NASA announced this week that it is planning a mission to Europa where scientists think there could be life. For people who are sick of scanning secret, blacked out government documents for alien crash site cover ups, there may be some hard evidence of extraterrestrial life in the near future. NASA is planning a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa where scientists think there could be alien life in its subsurface ocean. In the space agency’s latest budget request of $17.5 billion dollars, they have set aside $15 million to develop a robotic Europa mission that could possibly land on the satellite. While that’s a puny amount of money in comparison to the billions needed to complete the mission, it’s still in its incubation stages. NASA says the launch wouldn’t happen until at least the mid 2020’s.
Vast Ocean of Water
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Where there is water, there can be life, and Europa has a TON of water. The vast, single ocean on the moon is said to have twice the amount of water than all of the water on Earth. All that water is kept in liquid format by the strong gravitational pull of Jupiter, creating tides 1000 times stronger than those on Earth. That’s quite a killer wave, bro.
Water Geysers Taller Than Mount Everest
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In 2013 the Hubble Space Telescope detected geysers of water vapor on the surface of Europa. The ejections of water may be 20 times higher than Mount Everest. This could potentially be one way that a visiting spacecraft could search for signs of life, by flying close to the geysers and sampling the water vapor, without having to make a risky landing.
There is Oxygen
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Oxygen is another ingredient essential for life as we know it. Scientists believe there is enough oxygen in Europa’s vast ocean to even support large, complex animals rather than just microorganisms. Although there is a thick amount of ice on the surface, conditions may be right for enough oxygen from the surface to seep through cracks and other vents into the ocean.
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While the chemistry of Europa’s ocean may be suitable for life, the one ingredient that is required for life is energy. Here on Earth we have the sun to provide us with all the life sustaining energy we need. However for any life to survive on the distant world of Europa, beneath a thick layer of ice, it would need an alternative energy source. Scientists have theorized that this lack of sunlight could be made up for by energy stored in the moon’s mineral thick surface. The surface and the ocean act sort of like a the terminals of a battery, providing energy to any sea monsters that may be lurking in the water.
The Right Temperature
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The Goldilocks Zone, also known as the habitable zone is an area around a star in which a planet may have conditions right for life. The planet is not too close and not too far from the sun; it’s just right. This condition allows for the presence of liquid water and temperatures that would be able to sustain life. While Europa might be too cold for life, scientists believe the moon’s inner core could heat the water of its ocean to a suitable climate.
For now watch the movie!
For science fiction fans looking for a movie that portrays a realistic space mission and doesn’t involve Sandra Bullock floating around for two hours, Europa Report is pretty good. Astronauts are on a manned mission to Europa in search of life in Europa’s oceans.
Do you think there is life on Europa or are we forever alone in the solar system?
Follow Phil Haney @PhilHaney