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Draper Labs Develops Low Cost Probe To Orbit, Land On Europa For NASA

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the heading-out dept.

Space 79

MarkWhittington writes Ever since the House passed a NASA spending bill that allocated $100 million for a probe to Jupiter's moon Europa, the space agency has been attempting to find a way to do such a mission on the cheap. The trick is that the mission has to cost less than $1 billion, a tall order for anything headed to the Outer Planets. According to a Wednesday story in the Atlantic, some researchers at Draper Labs have come up with a cheap way to do a Europa orbiter and land instruments on its icy surface.

The first stage is to orbit a cubesat, a tiny, coffee can sized satellite that would contain two highly accurate accelerometers that would go into orbit around Europa and measure its gravity field. In this way the location of Europa's subsurface oceans would be mapped. Indeed it is possible that the probe might find an opening through the ice crust to the ocean, warmed it is thought by tidal forces.

The second stage is to deploy even smaller probes called chipsats, tiny devices that contain sensors, a microchip, and an antenna. Hundreds of these probes, the size of human fingernails, would float down on Europa's atmosphere to be scattered about its surface. While some might be lost, enough will land over a wide enough area to do an extensive chemical analysis of the surface of Europa, which would then be transmitted to the cubesat mothership and then beamed to Earth.

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NOOOOOOOO!!!!! (4, Funny)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 4 months ago | (#47279081)

Attempt no landings there!!!

Re:NOOOOOOOO!!!!! (1)

bejiitas_wrath (825021) | about 4 months ago | (#47279197)

Use them together, use them in peace.

Re:NOOOOOOOO!!!!! (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 4 months ago | (#47279277)

Not in the book. The PC addendum was only for the movie.

In the book there was no Cold War subplot.

Re:NOOOOOOOO!!!!! (1)

Mike Frett (2811077) | about 4 months ago | (#47280999)

What's this "Book" thing you speak of, some Ancient form of communication or something? I've heard of it but don't really know what it is.

You can't be serious. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47282651)

Attempt no landings there!!!

::rolls eyes::

Geez, mods, shouldn't a meme's use only be considered funny when its use is fitting, but least expected, not when its most obvious?

Re:You can't be serious. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47283617)

u mad bro?

Re:You can't be serious. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47283681)

He mad

Re:You can't be serious. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47285401)

How do you know if he's insane or not from a single post? Sounds more like he's angry.

Amount of useful science generated: close to zero (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47279097)

You could have linked the original article instead of your blog. [theatlantic.com]

Let's not blow the one chance we're going to get to launch a mission to Europa on a coffee can and a bunch of labs-on-a-chip. The over-budget and behind-schedule SLS is in desperate need of payload ideas, and coming up with small potatoes crap like this is not going to cut it.

Re:Amount of useful science generated: close to ze (1)

spiritplumber (1944222) | about 4 months ago | (#47279505)

Why not just add the cubesat to SLS?

Re:Amount of useful science generated: close to ze (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 4 months ago | (#47281771)

I was thinking along the lines of a camera. Maybe get under funded 'KH Sat. and move it to Europa?

Draper lands on Europa (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47279105)

Only mad men would attempt landings there

That's what I'm talkin' about! (3, Informative)

RyanFenton (230700) | about 4 months ago | (#47279173)

That's science right there - all our best evidence indicates that this can be feasible, and this seems the least effort to try it. Nice plan to at least see how far we can get, before we have to revise and replan. We're testing just the principles we want to test, using established functionality where we aren't testing.

That's far more 'magical' to me, than promising another set of boots in places that won't be feasible without exactly these kinds of experiments happening first. More rovers - more measurements!

When we need to spend the big resources to send people off this gravity well, lets have it make sense, perhaps set up a semblance of an workable environment first. We can barely make earth-based closed etiologies last for long - it would be a sad excuse for a 'backup' with our current level of development. We absolutely CAN expand into the galaxy/universe - but we've still got a few mountains of puzzle pieces left unsorted still, in my particular opinion.

Ryan Fenton

Re:That's what I'm talkin' about! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47279235)

What is it with you religious types and your dog whistle language? "gravity well"?

And your space-addled brain sure picks some fancy words: "etiologies"??? You might want to look that one up!

" We absolutely CAN expand into the galaxy/universe "

LOL no "we" can't! Even if we could, evolution is still happening, what "we" are you talking about at those time scales?

And why is it important? It's never gonna happen.

Re:That's what I'm talkin' about! (3, Insightful)

NotSanguine (1917456) | about 4 months ago | (#47279521)

What is it with you religious types and your dog whistle language? "gravity well"?

And your space-addled brain sure picks some fancy words: "etiologies"??? You might want to look that one up!

" We absolutely CAN expand into the galaxy/universe "

LOL no "we" can't! Even if we could, evolution is still happening, what "we" are you talking about at those time scales?

And why is it important? It's never gonna happen.

Such a negative personality (I know, I know, "No, I'm not!"). The research to be done, technologies to be developed, and issues to be solved with becoming a space-faring race will pay us back many times over in solving the issues we have here on Earth.

"Religious types?" "dog whistle language?" I know you can type on a keyboard, but can you actually read for comprehension? I think not. If you could, you'd realize what a steaming load you're posting.

A bit of unsolicited advice for you, champ: 'tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.

Cheers!

Re:That's what I'm talkin' about! (1)

TBone (5692) | about 4 months ago | (#47284323)

...but can you actually read for comprehension?

I think he can, but your comprehension of satire is lacking.

Re:That's what I'm talkin' about! (1)

NotSanguine (1917456) | about 4 months ago | (#47284945)

...but can you actually read for comprehension?

I think he can, but your comprehension of satire is lacking.

Perhaps you're right and my satire detection skills were off. I might have parsed that if OP hadn't blathered: "LOL no "we" can't! Even if we could, evolution is still happening, what "we" are you talking about at those time scales? And why is it important? It's never gonna happen."

That's a trope most of the anti-intellectual, anti-science folks pull out, ad nauseam. And so, while I agree that the first part reads as pretty good satire, the last bit read just like a standard anti-rationalist moron rather than someone satirizing one. As such, I'll give it a B-. A decent effort, but flailing at the end.

Had OP gone with something like, "LOL, no we can't. because Jebus you heathen scum!" it would have worked better IMHO. That said, is your "anti-reason moron" detector sensitive enough?

"It's never gonna happen." (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47279531)

Then what the hell are we waiting around for? If this is it, if this is the peak of human achievement, what a miserable peak it is. Let's just launch the nukes at one another and call it a day.

Good God. Trolls and Luddites.

Re:That's what I'm talkin' about! (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 4 months ago | (#47280935)

Not for us in the US it won't, because we don't do science/large scale engineering any more, but private efforts, perhaps in conjunction with governments in the BRIC countries, are going to make it happen

Re:That's what I'm talkin' about! (1)

currently_awake (1248758) | about 4 months ago | (#47281117)

There is nothing preventing the USA from doing large scale engineering projects, you just need to import a large group of foreign educated scientists and engineers to plan and run the whole project (again).

Re:That's what I'm talkin' about! (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 3 months ago | (#47288765)

Lack of engineers and scientists is not the problem we have. It's the power of Luddites and their lawyers. We would need to import enough Asians to one thinly populated area, say Nevada, to tip the political scales and render the Luddites powerless.

Re:That's what I'm talkin' about! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#47279999)

We can barely make earth-based closed etiologies last for long

Who is this 'we'? If you mean NASA, that's 100% correct. But there's terrariums which have been sealed for decades. A couple of cubic feet. As a species, I think we have people capable of doing this. We're not hiring them.

A waste of money, and irresponsible. (-1, Troll)

chapstercni (238462) | about 4 months ago | (#47279183)

This is a waste of money, regardless, but considering the economy, it isn't a responsible use of taxpayer dollars, either.

Re:A waste of money, and irresponsible. (3, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 4 months ago | (#47279223)

Nonesense. Add $100M to a $13T debt and you still have a $13T debt, it's a rounding error, a one off payment of 33 cents for every American.

Re:A waste of money, and irresponsible. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47280195)

it's a rounding error, a one off payment of 33 cents for every American.

That's what they said all of the other 130.000 times. That's why we need to make sure 100 millions worth of science is produced, in a sense that benefits a large number of citizens. Even pure expansion of knowledge is a valid benefit.

What you can't do is go around spending extracting cents out of your fellow citizens pockets on the presumption that they won't notice it. We have a democratic process that tries to weigh the interests and desires of all people; if you can't gather popular support for your project, you shouldn't do it with public money, with the very few exceptions such as defense and intelligence.

Re:A waste of money, and irresponsible. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47280807)

Nah. Really, the price here is bubble-gum money.

If you think the debt is a problem, you will have to actually deal with the significant budget items. Double NASA's budget; or drop NASA's budget to zero-- neither one would have any significant effect on the US debt.

Focussing attention on bubble-gum level spending items is, primarily, a means to divert attention from the budget items that do drive spending, and make sure those are not addressed.

Re:A waste of money, and irresponsible. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47285025)

Financial advisors will tell you: It's not the big purchases that kill you. It's the little things. He's right, and you're wrong on this.

But in a sense of the overall picture, you're both wrong. The government is moving money from the government to the US private sector -- depending on who you ask.

Re:A waste of money, and irresponsible. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47280223)

Learn what compounding means. Hell, learn to count. After all, whats another 33 cents on top of the one quarter of my wealth i give away to morons like you.

Re:A waste of money, and irresponsible. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47281277)

Since you'd like so much to make inroads on that debt, let's take a look at budget items that really could handle a cut; namely defense and intelligence.

Re: A waste of money, and irresponsible. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47281793)

If there was a way to let you keep all of your money, in exchange for not using our roads and power grid, i would vote for it.

I 100% support people who don't want to be in society to live a self sufficient life on their own property.

Re:A waste of money, and irresponsible. (1)

Rick in China (2934527) | about 4 months ago | (#47279239)

Burn. Not only does exploring the universe develop innovation along the way of figuring out _how to explore the universe_, which can often be repurposed to impact individual's daily lives, but the possibilities of learning and expanding our fundamental knowledge of physics/etc by putting things on other planets and watching/analysing data is enormous. I repeat: BURN.

Re:A waste of money, and irresponsible. (3, Interesting)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 4 months ago | (#47279315)

This is a waste of money, regardless, but considering the economy, it isn't a responsible use of taxpayer dollars, either.

Right. Because science is always a bad investment.

We should spend taxpayer money in military so we can steal from the countries that do advance technologically? Or what's your master plan on how to stay among the first instead of plummeting to the group of those countries that mostly serve as factories for the more advanced.

Re:A waste of money, and irresponsible. (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 4 months ago | (#47279445)

" instead of plummeting to the group of those countries that mostly serve as factories for the more advanced."

Uh, have you seen our outsourcing numbers recently?

Re:A waste of money, and irresponsible. (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 4 months ago | (#47279633)

Do you think Somalia outsurces much of it's manual labor to Norway?

Re:A waste of money, and irresponsible. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47280229)

Money loving people would rather watch out for their money than perhaps discover new and unexplored things which could expand the human race beyond simple and low level abstractions such as economy, money and taxes. But hey, I hope you get to keep all that money so that you can still get your daily McDonalds meal 200 years from now. Cheers!

Re:A waste of money, and irresponsible. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47285459)

No, this is for the betterment and expanding the understanding of existence for all of humanity. You know what is a waste of taxpayer dollars? The military. Company bailouts. Tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. Obamacare. The war on ideas (AKA the "war" on terrorism). The "war" on drugs. The massively inflated salaries of politicians.

Fun thought experiment but not practical (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47279247)

Cubesat-sized stuff is so small mostly because it tosses overboard redundancy and rad-hardened components.

While it may work for short times on Earth orbit, sending a mini probe like this all the way to Jupiter (a very hostile radiation environment if there ever was one) sounds like a good way of wasting a launcher to me.

Now if they'd toss half a dozen of these, I might buy it that one or two will get to Europa orbit and may actually do something useful.

Re:Fun thought experiment but not practical (2)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 4 months ago | (#47279681)

Gee, I guess the engineers at NASA don't know about radiation levels at Jupiter. Lucky for them you posted about it on the internets. I'll forward them your post so they aren't left in the dark.

not NASA engineers (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47280219)

Those folks probably don't know about real deep space design issues, any more than the other thousands of cubesat space cadets out there.

Not just radiation, but power. Solar power is 1/25th what it is at earth for instance.

long duration flight. It takes 5 or 7 years to get there

Re:Fun thought experiment but not practical (5, Informative)

werepants (1912634) | about 4 months ago | (#47281707)

Gee, I guess the engineers at NASA don't know about radiation levels at Jupiter. Lucky for them you posted about it on the internets. I'll forward them your post so they aren't left in the dark.

Actually, OP is completely correct. I just sat in on a series of NASA talks on cubesats (NEPP, look it up) - they have huge problems with radiation and reliability because there isn't the budget for the testing and qualification that happens with typical satellites. Translation: 30% failure rate in benign environments. For reference, we're talking about systems that are (mostly) good up to 1-4 krads of ionizing dose, while projections I've seen for the Europa environment are ~ 2 Mrads. Or 2000 krads, if your metric is rusty. So we're talking about as much as 3 orders of magnitude more dose, with a system architecture that already experiences horrendous failure rates.

I don't know anything about Draper systems, but unless they've included mass budget for some serious shielding (look up JUNO and the "vault" they used for their electronics) there's no way this thing will last long enough to do useful science, if it even survives the trip there. It's entirely possible that this entire thing is the brainchild of a couple of postdocs who took some classes on spacecraft architectures but no nothing about how rad-hard electronic systems are actually developed.

Now, it's certainly possible that this project would be in a different class of cubesat, and they might be able to afford real, rad-hard components with Mrad range dose tolerance, but even so, Jupiter is one of the harshest radiation environments in the solar system, and satellites with traditional, expensive development cycles still have mission lifetimes of several months, tops. The only real way I could see them being successful is with rad-hard components and an extremely short mission profile - show up, dump the chipsats, and beam back some data as fast as possible before your electronics go insane and melt.

Re:Fun thought experiment but not practical (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 4 months ago | (#47281713)

Since NASA engineers didn't develop the probe in question, I fail to see how your comment is relevant. The probe in question was designed by Draper Labs, smart guys to be sure - but not known for their experience in designing deep space probes.

Re:Fun thought experiment but not practical (3, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 4 months ago | (#47280729)

Cubesat-sized stuff is so small mostly because it tosses overboard redundancy and rad-hardened components.

You can significantly rad-harden a device without adding weight. First, make sure the semiconductors use depleted boron [wikipedia.org] . Many off-the-shelf semiconductors already use Boron-11. Second, use any spare CPU cycles to run checksums on memory and FPGA bitstreams, to detect and restore flipped bits. Third, use a few cheap rad-harded 8-bit microcontrollers, such as 8051, for the most critical functions, such as the watchdog timer, and controlling the fallback RX/TX to Earth, including the ability to receive and install software patches. These 8-bit MCUs can be OTP with blown fuses, so there are no bits to flip.

"float down on Europa's atmosphere" (2)

caffeinated_bunsen (179721) | about 4 months ago | (#47279269)

Um, are we talking about the same Europa here? The one with the atmosphere that barely musters a nanotorr at the surface? The one where the terminal velocity of a scrap of mylar film is on the order of tens of kilometers per second? I think that "float down" plan may have been selected a bit hastily.

At least the chipsats turning into teeny little craters in the ice will reduce the data burden for the cubesat's transmitter, which based on those solar panels has a power budget of about a tenth of a watt to make a link at a range close to a billion kilometers. You can maybe squeeze a few hundred bits per second out of that while you're tying up a DSN dish, otherwise forget it.

Maybe they're thinking of making it an accessory to a full-size probe, but forgot to mention the need to send a few hundred kilograms of other stuff out there too. Or maybe somebody was behind on their press release quota, and this half-baked crap was the best thing they had lying around.

Re:"float down on Europa's atmosphere" (4, Funny)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 4 months ago | (#47279663)

Um, are we talking about the same Europa here?

Maybe the Draper Labs guys misread the project definition.
"Europa??? we thought you meant Europe"

Re:"float down on Europa's atmosphere" (2)

An ominous Cow art (320322) | about 4 months ago | (#47281133)

Whichever destination, there's a lot of work to do before the final countdown.

Re:"float down on Europa's atmosphere" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47279671)

Good thing the scientists at Draper, who spent months studying the planet and designing a system to survive the harsh environment, have you, a random Slashdot commenter who after a brief 30 second glance at the summary searches through his Mountain-Dew soaked brain for just enough trivia to declare to the world, "This cannot work."

Thank you, what would the world do without ignorant people like yourself.

Re:"float down on Europa's atmosphere" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47280085)

And what would the world do without somebody like you calling Europa a PLANET??? Sarah Palin, is that you???

Re:"float down on Europa's atmosphere" (1)

Darth Snowshoe (1434515) | about 4 months ago | (#47281547)

It's possible that the Draper plan could work, but there are lots of risks and uncertainties. Getting individual chipsats onto Europa's surface successfully and functioning is a big uncertainty. That they would have enough power to do some bit of science, and then transmit a result back to orbit successfully, is another. How are the chipsats going to be powered? Your average commercial 9-volt battery is not going to work on the surface of Europa.

The environment on Europa IS very cold and the radiation levels are high. When Juno was sent to Jupiter, all (or most) of the electronics was put inside a giant vault to provide it with some rad shielding. Naked or minimally-shielded chipsats aren't going to fare well. Europa Clipper is not going to orbit Europa at all, but rather Jupiter itself, to avoid the worst of the rad effects.

NASA encourages lots of planning and mission development but often doesn't commit to actually building or executing the missions that seem most innovative because the ratio of risk to expense is too high (look, for instance, at the Titan Mare Explorer.)

Re:"float down on Europa's atmosphere" (1)

caffeinated_bunsen (179721) | about 4 months ago | (#47282485)

Trust me, no scientist at Draper spent months on this. It would make some damn sense if they had. It reads like a summer intern's wide-eyed ramblings after they just read about things other cubesats have done, but before they considered any of the actual engineering issues.

And sometimes, you end up with a random /.er who, though the satellite he's working on is only going to low Earth orbit, sees the potential of applying the cubesat fast/cheap/high-risk philosophy to interplanetary missions, had already quantified the problems with power generation at Jovian distances from the sun and the resources required to communicate with a miniscule power budget, and even went and read about the possibility of common materials surviving unshielded reentry a few years ago when the chipsat idea started making headlines.

There's real potential for using cubesats beyond Earth orbit. Lots and lots of people have noticed this, and they've generally also noticed the same set of problems -- power, cold, communication, and radiation. There are possible solutions to each of those, but they come with major costs and the probe described and drawn in the article incorporates none of them.

The aerodynamic entry idea is utter nonsense on that moon, though -- what passes for an atmosphere on Europa would qualify as "ultra-high vacuum" in a laboratory. It's about the same density as what the ISS is orbiting through right now. There is no structure in existence that could decelerate enough in that atmosphere to land gently. The terminal velocity of a flake of monolayer graphene is comparable to rifle muzzle velocities, and functional circuitry is a few orders of magnitude heavier than that.

Re:"float down on Europa's atmosphere" (1)

caffeinated_bunsen (179721) | about 4 months ago | (#47282791)

There's another possibility that occurred to me: That the actual mission concept does incorporate measures to address those problems, including propulsion on the chipsats, but was so magnificently mangled by the press office and reporters as to create the appearance of complete crackheadedness. This would require a slightly greater-than-usual commitment to misrepresentation and intellectual laziness on the part of the journalism majors, but is within the realm of plausibility.

Re:"float down on Europa's atmosphere" (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 4 months ago | (#47279811)

"which would then be transmitted to the cubesat mothership and then beamed to Earth."

furthermore, as you describe Europa, then galileo probes parachute would have been useless, the atmosphere is low but not totally so...

even I usually read the article blurb to the end.

Re:"float down on Europa's atmosphere" (2)

thrich81 (1357561) | about 4 months ago | (#47280885)

Galileo didn't have a parachute, and didn't soft land anywhere -- it was intentionally burned up in a high speed plunge into Jupiter's atmosphere. Perhaps you are thinking about the Cassini/Huygens probe of Titan, Saturn's largest moon which does have a dense atmosphere. I have to agree with the OP -- there is something not right about a plan to use Europa's practically non-existent atmosphere for this.

I find this approach unsettling (2)

pr0t0 (216378) | about 4 months ago | (#47280483)

We've certainly left rovers and probes on other planets, and even intentionally crashed a couple on the moon. But raining hundreds of fingernail-sized chipsats on Europa kind of seems like cosmic littering. The debris from previous exploration missions have always felt large enough that we could go and pick it up if we were inclined (or capable) to do so. I know the truth is probably as bad or worse than this Europa mission, and I've probably subconsciously ignored that truth, but this just seems so willfully arrogant.

I feel like it plays into some of my worst fears about our species: arrogant, destructive, self-centered, lacking empathy, etc. As long as we exhibit those kinds of behaviors, we'll never get invited to the really good extra-terrestrial parties. You know, the ones where the all of the molecules of the hostess' undergarments leap simultaneously one foot to the left? Let's not do this mission. I want to go to that kind of party.

Re:I find this approach unsettling (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about 4 months ago | (#47280783)

Many of the 3rd stage boosters from Apollo are either in a heliocentric orbit [wikipedia.org] , or smashed into the surface of the moon [nasa.gov] after the Command Module separated from them.

Historically, we aren't very good at not littering bits of spacecraft all over the place when we do these kinds of things.

Fail (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 4 months ago | (#47280743)

Yep. Big fail here.
"Hundreds of these probes, the size of human fingernails, would float down on Europa's atmosphere to be scattered about its surface."

Europa doesn't have an atmosphere.

Often this kind of thing is only a misunderstanding in the summary, but, no, checking the article, that's what it says.
Sorry, no.

Re:Fail (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about 4 months ago | (#47281005)

They meant Europe (in Dutch: Europa). Small typo, happens to everybody.
Europe does have an atmosphere.
To save on launch cost they'll bring the cubesat by plane.
The rest of the 1 billion is beer and pizza money.

Re:"float down on Europa's atmosphere" (1)

thrich81 (1357561) | about 4 months ago | (#47280955)

That's the first thing I thought of too while reading the article. Usually some plan with such an obvious flaw doesn't make it past the press release editing at legitimate labs. Something odd is going on -- I'm waiting to see the reaction of the planetary science community, and either a "correction" issued or I stand by to be amazed at some facet of the physics of tenuous atmospheres which I did not know about.

Next probe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47279307)

I want to know when the next probe to Uranus will launch? I want to be sitting down for it.

Re:Next probe (1)

Scarletdown (886459) | about 4 months ago | (#47279683)

It would obviously have to be before 2620. After then, Uranus will be renamed.

NASA Kickstarter (1)

thygate (1590197) | about 4 months ago | (#47279479)

Since they do research for all mankind, but are mostly funded with American taxpayer dollars, they should start some kind of global donation program. I would love to chip in a bit for research like this. Maybe it will only bring in a few million dollars, which is peanuts compared to a billion dollars, but it could help the science cause anyway.

No, never. That's a very, very bad idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47279537)

We would all love to think we could chip in a little to help NASA out. If this were so I would be among the first in line and would likely empty my pockets of every expendable dime I have.

But that isn't the case at all, even if NASA was accepting.

Any dime we could contribute, Congress would cut at least two from what they contribute.

sua may photocopy (-1)

Sao Anh (3699129) | about 4 months ago | (#47279575)

I Don't Know Sua may photocopy [anhsaoviet.info] tan noi

Litterbugs! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47279803)

So is someone going to clear up all this sensor confetti afterwards?
Or is this how we make our mark in the universe now, scattering chips everywhere?

Misread that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47279953)

I thought it said "Draper Labs Develops ... to land on Europe for NSA"

Fund NASA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47280055)

NASA is one of the only good things to come from America.

The fact that Americans seem to hate it merely reinforces the view the rest of the world has of America.

I bet there'd be more effort put into NASA if they found a planet full of brown people you could kill and oil you could steal.

Online Bus Booking (-1, Troll)

onlinebusbooking (3700871) | about 4 months ago | (#47280167)

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Re: Online Bus Booking (-1, Troll)

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Re: Online Bus Booking (-1, Troll)

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ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47280449)

Dumbasses, didn't you hear the man?

Soundtrack to the stars (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | about 4 months ago | (#47280477)

If this gets launched, it should be to "Europa - The Final Countdown". :P

Power? (1)

confused one (671304) | about 4 months ago | (#47280493)

And how will you power said cube sat and chip sats? You're way out at Jupiter, where sunlight is a bit scarce and you're in orbit around the planet, meaning what sunlight you have is not available for the entire orbit as you pass into eclipse. Oh, and you have to transmit the data with more than a few milliwatts of RF; you're way out at Jupiter, ~350M miles is close approach. It works in Earth's orbit because sunlight is much more intense and you only have to communicate over a few hundred miles distance.

The answer to everything in science (1)

magsol (1406749) | about 4 months ago | (#47280527)

Nanobots!

Re:The answer to everything in science (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about 4 months ago | (#47281105)

no. Nanobots made from graphene.

Didn't they do something like this in 'Twister' (1)

neo-mkrey (948389) | about 4 months ago | (#47280997)

Cool idea then, cool idea now.

Phase I study (1)

Convector (897502) | about 4 months ago | (#47281203)

It's not clear from the summary (or the linked article), but this isn't a mission at this point. This is a concept selected for Phase I study. [nasa.gov]

From the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) news release [nasa.gov] :
"NIAC Phase I awards are approximately $100,000, providing awardees the funding needed to conduct a nine-month initial definition and analysis study of their concepts. If the basic feasibility studies are successful, proposers can apply for Phase II awards, which provide up to $500,000 for two more years of concept development."

This effort is independent of the ongoing Europa mission studies (e.g. the Clipper [nasa.gov] concept.) The Draper concept may end up getting a mission if the results prove promising. Personally, I have doubts that this will prove credible, but that's the whole point of the NIAC studies.

"Coffee Can" (1)

LeadSongDog (1120683) | about 4 months ago | (#47281643)

But The Atlantic said "a small satellite about as large as a half-gallon of milk". I may be confused here, but at that ambient pressure, wouldn't that launched half-gallon of milk turn into a very much larger volume of water vapour, plus half a cup of freeze-dried milk solids? Just what would that volume be? Conversely, if it was a half-gallon at insertion, we're talking a fractional-droplet of milk at launch. So which is it?

Ya gotta love it when Americans try to talk down to each other about stuff that's already simple.

We likely already know the results of this mission (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47282407)

A critical thinker who is not averse to questioning the conventional theory on Europa will already know that the theory that there are subsurface oceans is heavily dependent upon speculative interpretations of Europa's features -- namely, that the observed channels are "cracks in the ice". Yet, closeup, open-minded inspection of these features indicates that they are more like grooves or gouges. See http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA01664.jpg.

While it's fantastic that there is so much interest in Europa, one wonders what the reaction to this mission will be in the event that it completely fails to produce any evidence for subsurface oceans? Will a failure of this huge investment of resources invite people to question the theory which led to the mission in the first place? If not, then we might not be going out of our way enough to test our preconceptions.

Crusade - Your Golf Ball put a dent in my Ship (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47284259)

Sounds like Galen's worst nightmare has finally come to pass. Chipsats will become the Confetti of scientist everywhere, blindly tossed overboard from orbit.. "The Memories of War" August 1999

Under 1B is hard? (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about 4 months ago | (#47284391)

So... exactly why is it so "hard" to do this for under $1B? Launch costs are well known and are a small fraction of $1B. We have now sent dozens of probes to the planets so at the least the guidance and exterior should be well known. What else is left? Are instrumentation and mission support? Are we really needing to reinvent the wheel for each new mission? Is it that difficult to re-use (or at least upgrade) existing sensors and cameras?

All of this should be put out to worldwide bid.

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