Europa Bound? –Trump’s Space Policy to “Refocus NASA Away from Mars to Explore Jupiter’s Moon With Its Vast Liquid Ocean and Potential for Life”

 

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President-elect Trump’s unfolding space policy will refocus NASA efforts away from exploring Mars to mining valuable minerals from the asteroid belt and visiting Jupiter’s “ocean-moon” Europa, perhaps the best place to find alien life near Earth.


In 2013, huge active plumes containing water vapor being released from the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa were discovered shooting up 1200 kilometers. This sensational find was made using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Europa has been a focus of extraterrestrial research for some time, as there were clear indications that it harbors a liquid vast ocean beneath its icy crust. The plumes were not sighted again, however. The involvement of Hubble raises the possibility that Europa’s elusive plumes may finally have been spotted again.

“First, perhaps, it might be best to understand why anyone would want to land on Europa at all. Europa – the second of Jupiter’s four large satellites – is clearly a special place,” says Caltech’s Mike Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy. “Ever since the time of the Galileo spacecraft nearly 2 decades ago, we have recognized that Europa’s fresh icy surface, covered with cracks and ridges and transform faults, is the external signature of a vast internal salty ocean.”

The key to NASA’s map of search for life in our solar system is to “follow the water.” When Obama took office, he told NASA to concentrate on sending humans to Mars in the 2030s. Mars is a primary target in the search for life outside Earth, and liquid water is the most important pre-requisite for life.

But Mars has undergone a billion-year drought. Evidence shows that more than 3 billion years ago Mars was wet and habitable. However, the latest research reaffirms just how dry the environment is today. For life to exist, it would need to find pockets far beneath the surface, located away from the dryness and radiation present on the ground.

The most interesting possibility of a new NASA focus on Europa is Caltech Brown’s insight that “the most interesting possibility that I can think of – is that the rocky bottom of the ocean is almost like a miniature Earth, with plate tectonics, continents, deep trenches, and active spreading centers. Think about mid-ocean ridges on Earth, with their black smokers belching scalding nutrient-rich waters into a sea floor teaming with life that is surviving on these chemicals. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to picture the same sort of rich chemical soup in Europa’s ocean leading to the evolution of some sort of life, living off of the internal energy generated inside of Europa’s core. If you’re looking for Europa’s whales – which many of my friends and I often joke that we are – this is the world you want to look for them on.”

The president-elect wants NASA to explore the furthest reaches of the solar system by the end of the century, according to Space Policy Online. “I will free NASA from the restriction of serving primarily as a logistics agency for low Earth orbit activity… Instead we will refocus its mission on space exploration.”

Trump’s new space plan, still a little short on details, focuses on eliminating bureaucratic waste, promoting a private-public partnership, and setting ambitious goals for NASA that will force the agency to stretch itself.

Shortly before Election Day, the new president-elect recruited former Republican congressman Robert Walker, who chaired the Science, Space, and Technology Committee in the 1990s, to help draft a plan for NASA.

Trump’s new space policy, as revealed by Walker, is designed to coordinate public and private efforts to maximize American efforts to explore the entire solar system, which includes mining valuable minerals from the asteroid belt and visiting Jupiter’s moon Europa, perhaps the best place to find alien life near Earth.

Trump also plans to bring back the National Space Council, last in operation under George H.W. Bush, explore deep space, and encourage commercial partners to build a new economy in low Earth orbit, Walker told Mother Jones.

“If you’re looking at technology that looks for the solar system, you are then likely to move toward plasma rockets, toward nuclear-powered rockets, certainly toward solar sails,” said Walker

“The United States of America is the only nation that can protect space for the free world and for responsible entities, and preserves space for generations to come,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, who is on the short list to head NASA, told SpaceNews. “America must forever be the preeminent spacefaring nation.”

The Daily Galaxy via NASA, Space News, Caltech and mikebrownsplanets.com

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