We could find life on another planet, but do we have the will?
Are we alone in the universe?
This month’s National Geographic cover story takes a look at the question, including the latest developments in astrobiology and exoplanet research. The story also covers the Hubble Space Telescope’s recent discovery of geysers on Jupiter’s moon Europa that spew water from a subsurface ocean into outer space.
I wrote an accompanying opinion piece on NASA’s proposed Europa Clipper mission, which would send a spacecraft into orbit around Jupiter for an up-close look at Europa’s geysers. In the article, I write:
Europa's geysers present us Earthlings with a remarkable, tantalizing opportunity. We could design and built a robotic spacecraft that would fly through these plumes and sniff around. It would cost each U.S. taxpayer about the equivalent of one reasonably priced burrito, albeit without extra guacamole.
But, as I go on to say, there is currently no funding set aside to make the Europa Clipper mission a reality:
The decision rests with the White House, which can ask permission from Congress to build the spacecraft, and with Congress, which can agree to set aside the money. That's where we at the Planetary Society come in. It's the reason my old professor Carl Sagan was one of the society's founders. We advance space science and exploration. With the support of our 45,000 members, people like you, we work with Congress and the administration, reminding them of the enormous value of planetary exploration and the great bargain that it is.
If you’re not already a member, consider joining us today to help us continue to advocate for bold missions like Europa Clipper.
NASA / JPL / Ted Stryk
Europa from Galileo
Color half-phase global view of Europa. The detail image was taken by Galileo on September 25, 1998. Color is from data taken on other orbits.