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Planetary Radio: Rise of the Europa Underground?

Planetary Scientist Alyssa Rhoden and friends have created Destination: Europa

Posted by Mat Kaplan

26-11-2013 21:39 CST

Topics: Jupiter's moons, Europa, Europa Clipper, Planetary Radio, geology, ice worlds

Anybody out there NOT want a mission to Europa? Come on, you can confess to Uncle Mat. You don’t have a shred of curiosity about that vast, inviting ocean? Couldn’t care less about learning what might be living under all that ice? Get no thrill from asking the question, “Are we alone?”

Alyssa Rhoden isn’t just talking about Jupiter’s mysterious moon. She and her friends at Destination: Europa are doing something about getting us there. She tells her story on this week’s Planetary Radio.

Alyssa is a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow at the Goddard Space Flight Center. She’s fascinated by Europa’s intricately shattered surface, and she’d love to know if there are lakes hiding not too far below that surface. And she’s sure tired of studying it from half a billion miles away. She’d like to see the 90 percent that wasn’t imaged by Galileo, and she’d like to peer beneath the ice with radar. 

All of this and more builds a strong case for the Europa Clipper spacecraft, a project that has nowhere near the funding required to make it a reality. The Destination: Europa website drives that case home, and suggests ways for all of us to get involved. 

You’ve heard of the Mars Underground? Well, it may be time for a Europa Underground (or Under-ice, as Alyssa suggests). Destination:Europa may be the rallying cry of this new movement. I say, let’s go.

See other posts from November 2013


Or read more blog entries about: Jupiter's moons, Europa, Europa Clipper, Planetary Radio, geology, ice worlds


Enzo: 11/27/2013 02:33 CST

Ok, there's no funding, but, at least, is there enough plutonium left to do this mission ? Casey's post a few days ago seemed to imply that the answer to this is no ("Goodbye outer planets"). Can it be done with solar panels ? And not just from the energy point of view, I'm thinking about radiation. Does anybody know ? Otherwise the question is almost academic.

Casey Dreier: 11/27/2013 05:28 CST

Enzo: There is enough Pu-238 left for a Europa Clipper mission using MMRTGs. Most estimates of the remaining U.S. supply place it around 30kg or so. My previous article is goodbye outer planets for smaller New Frontiers- and Discovery-class missions that can't usually afford the mass and expense of fully-fueled RTGs. I know that the Europa Clipper concept study team is investigating the use of solar panels. They can provide enough energy, but will degrade faster in the radiation environment. I think they've done additional work to refine the potential orbits to minimize radiation, but that will always be a problem for an extended mission. We'll probably hear more about this at the next OPAG meeting in January.

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