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Life on the Moons of Jupiter?

Hemos posted more than 14 years ago | from the fun-with-scientific-speculation dept.

Science 215

bcrafts writes "The ecological conditions in which microbes were found by researchers near the Antarctic underground freshwater Lake Vostok, have sparked more discussion inside of NASA, on a CNN report, other scientific groups,as well as other online sites about possible life on Jupiter's moon, Europa. "

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lets face it (0)

enum (17859) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468830)

life exists no where else in this universe, and in a few decades, it won't exist here either. who cares.

Wait, there's a signal coming in... (4)

grappler (14976) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468831)

ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS, EXCEPT EUROPA. ATTEMPT NO LANDINGS THERE.

--
grappler

Europa (2)

Star Traveller (115341) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468832)

It would be nice to have a semi-close neighbour to exchange rare substances with.

How long so you think it would be before we can play a baseball game against their team?

..Money Needs To Go Into This.. (4)

BradyB (52090) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468833)

They should be pouring money into probes of Jupiter, because at least that planet and it's moon have at least some activity. Mars for all it's worth seems to be a dead planet. I'm not saying we'll find intelligent life in our own solar system, but it would be nice to try and find some life on a planet or moon that might be more capable of sustaining life than Mars?

Old News (2)

Acrodizer (104246) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468834)

Scientific American ran this as its cover story in its October 1999 issue. You guys should have picked it up from there, they write better stories than CNN.

Re:Europa (2)

jeremy f (48588) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468835)

Hypothesising that the surface will one day heat up to meet the surface temperature of our planet, I'd say, oh, somewhere within the range of 4.6 billion years, give or take a few eons.

Now as soon as we can train OUR microbes to play baseball, we could get a game on.

Europa (0)

Star Traveller (115341) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468836)

In the future Europa-Europe will cause a lot of confusion. Saying you were born in Europe, wishing to visit Europa...

One of them has to go

Life on Europa? (1)

Dr. Worm (30051) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468837)

In one of the Oddessy books (either 2010 or 2061, I don't remember which) by Arthur C. Clarke, didn't he put life on Europa? Some kind of plant things that lived under the frozen surface of the oceans, I think. I just thought I would point that out...

I've said it before... (5)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468838)

but I think it bears repeating, so I'll say it again.

The discovery of life on Europa would more or less confirm the ubiquity of life. If microbes were found on Mars, they could have originated on Earth and moved to Mars (or vice versa), but the chances are low indeed (although admittedly not zero) of Earth and Europan life having a common origin.

Having said that...

The Vostok life forms show only that life can exist in such environments; it says nothing about life forming there. It may well be possible for existing life to adapt to a shitty environment (from our POV), but it would, to my untrained eye, be far more difficult for life to start there.

arthur c clarke had better not be pofetic (1)

matman (71405) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468839)

or else we might have some genocidal aliens commin into our solar system. i duno how those cute little microbes would handle being so close to a new sun ;)

Re:..Money Needs To Go Into This.. (4)

hadron (139) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468840)

NASA are planning to send a probe, the Europa Orbiter [nasa.gov] to study Europa in 2003, it should arrive in 2007.

Europa does indeed look like the most likely spot for life in the solar system, and even if there is no native life, it's quite possible that introduced microbes could thrive there. (although the ethics of such an act are questionable).

I forget the exact mission but... (2)

Voltage_Gate (69001) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468841)

Life exists on Jupiter's moons because we sent it there. "Clean rooms" do not keep _all_ microorganisms off of our space probes. Of course they could survive the journey there and maybe even start to reproduce.

Re:..Money Needs To Go Into This.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468842)

NASA studies Mars because they think that life had once existed there. Not only could we learn a lot about the evolution of life sustaining planets themselves, but there is also some potential of making it habitable. It is also much cheaper and easier to send probes to Mars, because not much goes on there. To send probes to Jupiter or one of its moons, which are plagued by tremendous storms and volcanos, would require a LOT more money and technology.

Exterestial life. (1)

strlen (117515) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468843)

Well, lets look at it that way. If life indeed somewhere else, which, it could accorind to theory, we could be reached very soon. Conditions for life to exist have been spotted throughout the evidence recently. Since the time it takes for life to develop is relatively small, in proportion to time the universe has existed and time it takes from the begining of a civilization to the time the civilization is able to reach other planets is relatively small too. Then, if all goes to theory we would be contacted by `aliens` and since no evidence exists that we have been, I think its not all this simple. Here's my $0.02

P.S. - this is borrowed from an intersting article I have found in a Russian scientific journal some time ago. Excuse spelling marks. Oh ya, this is one of the first posts too!

Re:..Money Needs To Go Into This.. (1)

bmoore (106826) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468844)

I'm not saying we'll find intelligent life in our own solar system, but it would be nice to try and find some life on a planet or moon that might be more capable of sustaining life than Mars?

So in other words, we haven't found intelligent life on earth either.

Re:..Money Needs To Go Into This.. (2)

Timbo (75953) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468845)

Yes... but...

Jupiter is one hell of a long way away compared to Mars. More cost, bigger less frequent probes. I think we should start small (!) and land men on Mars:

The sooner we have a launch facilty on a low gravity planet the better. I'm sure most of the cost of sending probes/men/monkeys into space is in getting them out of the earths gravity well.

Would it not be more prudent (and cost effective) to explore our nearest neighbours first?

Life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468846)

The problem is that our views on life a formed from what we see on Earth. In reality, the number of different conditions and ways that life can be formed is probably vastly higher than what we currently understand.

This is interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468847)

If they do find life there (and I am sceptical), it does make it a little more likely that ET life exists. Foolish comments above notwithstanding... I hope they find something more interesting than bacteria.

New worlds to crash expensive spacecraft into! (2)

mutagen (30942) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468848)

Ah yes, the fine line between "unravelling the mysteries of the cosmos, affording Man a greater understanding of the origins of life... itself!" and "incompetent bastards who repeatedly slam your tax dollars into distant planets"...

Good chance (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468849)

Europa has always been a possibility as Jupiters 2 outer moon. Europa is a world of ice basically. Its outer shell is that of ice clear of impact craters due to resolidifying ice after heated impact and it's inner is that of a vast ocean with a inner rocky ice core. Because of the water and a good bit of warmth caused by tidal forces for jupiter, Io, and Ganamede, it has good potential of sparking simple life such as single cell bacteria or algae. I think this will be most intersting in the years to come. From what I understand, there is a mission to land on Europa sometime soon. Anyway, we'll find out soon

Europa: "It's got the ingredients." (4)

Money__ (87045) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468850)

That CNN story is a little out dated!

January 17, 1997
Web posted at: 11:00 p.m.EST


btw...
This link (jpg 44K) [cnn.com] shows a closer view of the moon Europa orbiting Jupiter.

Lake Vostok wasn't always inhospitable (2)

redelm (54142) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468851)

I'm not impressed. Every spot on this globe has been through dramatic climactic changes over geological time. At more than one point, Lake Vostok was swamplike, teeming with life.

But life surviving inhospitable environments is very different from life evolving in such places. Has anyone a theory that Europa was once warmer, with sufficient sunlight? Or maybe ejecta from Earth impactors has transported life elsewhere?

-- Robert

Alien Sitcoms (1)

Star Traveller (115341) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468852)

I sometimes have the feeling that we're all part of an alien sitcom, and this is just another twist of faith.

Hmmm, the season finale should be coming up soon, the last one took place 2000 years ago in the Jerusalem area.

If life goes there, the ratings are going to soar!

Re:..Money Needs To Go Into This.. (2)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468853)

although the ethics of such an act are questionable
THis sounds reasonable until you think about it. What ethical considerations are there for introducing life to a dead planet? To introduce water-breathing rabbits to the Europan system if life is extant would be a disastrous thing but, if you're sure the planet is devoid of life, I say go for it.

Of course, how do you know the planet is truly empty? I suspect that this would be a non-trivial task, but a daunting one.

Re:screw Europa, go to Titan! (2)

Fruan (105302) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468854)

Why would you want to go to titan, when europa is so much better?

It has all the water you could possible want! Ever! And its closer, and thus not as cold.

The way I see it, having a base on Europa would be quite similar to having a base on antarctica (I just *know* I spelled that wrong :o) , except its a lot harder to get to. And you need to bring your atmosphere with you. And there isn't as much gravity. And, um... Jupiters gravity could screw you over a little bit (Don't even get me *started* on Io...) And... actually it isn't all that much like having a base on antarctica at all.

But my point remains valid, as soon as I actually remember what it was...

Alien Sitcoms (0)

Star Traveller (115341) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468855)

I sometimes have the feeling that we're all part of an alien sitcom, and this is just another twist of faith.

Hmmm, the season finale should be coming up soon, the last one took place 2000 years ago in the Jerusalem area.

If life goes there, the ratings are going to soar!

Re:Life on Europa? (1)

rlkoppenhaver (101366) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468856)

Yes, but IIRC (and it has been a while), he also ignited Jupiter, to warm Europa up. I don't recall whether this was before or after there was life there, though.

Re:..Money Needs To Go Into This.. (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468857)

well, mars has more potential for colonization. Where Europa has more potential for life. Io is actually the most active body in our solar system besides the sun. Io is full of active sulfur volcanoes. There's a chance of life on IO too. Then again, triton, is 90% nitrogen atmosphere so that looks like a good place for a probe too.

Re:..Money Needs To Go Into This.. (1)

Fizgig (16368) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468858)

Of course, how do you know the planet is truly empty? I suspect that this would be a non-trivial task, but a daunting one.

That's the issue Kim Stanley Robinson talks about it Red Mars (thought it was boring and didn't read the others :) It was interesting, though). The bioligists are mad that people want to introduce microbiotic life becuase it might either
a) crowd out existing life that they haven't found
b) mutate sufficiently and look like native life and trick them

Re:..Money Needs To Go Into This.. (2)

cdlu (65838) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468859)

Fair, but Mars has an historical mysticism to it that appeals to people. And heck the mars landers only cost the equivalent of 2 days of spying in the US...

Jupiter and its moons are a great target for exploration, but don't have hundreds of years of people pondering life on them. Its only been less then half a millenium that we've actually known jupiter even -has- moons.

Re:I forget the exact mission but... (1)

Uart (29577) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468860)

nothing can live in the vacume of space...

Well life or no life... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468861)

Whether or not we find life on Europa, I think we should carry out a mission to "infect" Europa with genetically engineered microbes and let evolution do its work. Why not infect Venus, Mars, and lots of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn? Earth is a fungi and we should be spreading the spores.

Re:Alien Sitcoms (1)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468862)

I sometimes have the feeling that we're all part of an alien sitcom, and this is just another twist of faith.

You're probably aware of this, but Robert Rankin's excellent and hilarious Armageddon trilogy covers that very point.
Not read 'em? They're called Armageddon: The Musical, Armageddon II: They Came and Ate Us, and Armageddon III: The Suburban Book of the Dead

Heh, remember Mars? (1)

TheZ (121300) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468863)

Do we all not remember when we discovered micro organisms on Mars? I don't believe we cared. I wouldn't think we'd see anything special at this time, Earth is the only terraformed planet in this Galaxy, but if life exists elsewhere, it may be a clue that it will happen again, soon (being a few billion years). Until then, how about we try and get something far into another universe for research?

Re:Europa (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468864)

After we (Usa) invades Canada, all of Europe will probably be next... Who wants Mexico anyways :p

Someone famous once said... (1)

Timbo (75953) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468865)

life isn't a miracle, its inevitable...

Which I beleive to be true. Are there micro-organisms in Europa's oceans? probably... Does it really matter?... I don't think so.

It is clear to me that there are no planets in our solar system capable of supporting macro-cellular life...

Having said this, it *will* be interesting to see how life formed on other planets.

It is also useful from a historic point of view: very little is known about the Earth's early history. Europa's planetary conditions may mimic conditions on Earth 4bn years ago, in which case this could teach us about life on Earth.

Re:Europa (0)

Star Traveller (115341) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468866)

What do you mean WE
I am a Canadian, eh?
And anyways USA and Canada have an agreement deal thing.

Please don't invade us Mr Mean American

Across the Universe (1)

Beatles (122553) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468867)

Across the Universe

Words are flying out like endless rain into a paper cup,
They slither while they pass, they slip away across the universe.
Pools of sorrow waves of joy are drifting through my open mind,
Possessing and caressing me.
Jai Guru De Va Om
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world.
Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes,
That call me on and on across the universe,
Thoughts meander like a restless wind
Inside a letter box they
Tumble blindly as they make their way
Across the universe
Jai Guru De Va Om
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world.
Sounds of laughter shades of earth are ringing
Through my open views inciting and inviting me.
Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns,
It calls me on and on across the universe
Jai Guru De Va Om
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world.

Re:..Money Needs To Go Into This.. (1)

nEoN nOoDlE (27594) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468868)

why are the ethics questionable?

Re:Wait, there's a signal coming in... (1)

seaportcasino (121045) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468869)

That's so funny... That quote was the first thing that popped into my head when I saw this article. I almost posted it without looking at the messages, but thought I better check in case thought the exact same ting and they did. Great minds do think alike I guess!

Re:I forget the exact mission but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468870)

I don't think we have landed any probes yet on any of Jupiters moon's yet :P And even though those rooms aren't 100% clean they are damn close. If anything was able to get onto the probe or whatever it simply would DIE in spce from either lack of food or the god awful cold of space.

Re:..Money Needs To Go Into This.. (2)

BradyB (52090) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468871)

all i can say is LOL.

... (1)

Signa1 11 (125168) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468872)

Okay, people, this is pretty cool. These microbes can survive at conditions similar to those we expect on Europa, assuming the presence of water, which seems extremely likely now. But what difference does it make if we humans never manage to get further than the moon? This is just another reason we should get off our butts and start taking space travel seriously. The study of life from another planet would be so valuable to mankind that no expense would be unwarranted -- imagine the advances we could make in understanding our own life forms, if Europan life had significally different genes or followed a different genetic code, with the unique ribosomes required for it's reproduction, we may be able to understand life on a completely different level.

--
"Why, oh why didn't I take the blue pill?"

Re:New worlds to crash expensive spacecraft into! (2)

Fruan (105302) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468873)

I don't know... I rather enjoy watching my tax dollars get slamed into a distant planet. Actually, its even better - my country doesn't have a space program, so I'm watching some bastards slam *your* tax dollars into a distant planet.

When you think about it though, it could be a good way for NASA[*] to raise funds, by using this as a spectator sport: They build the biggest, most explosive space probe they can, and the slam it into some un-important moon (I'm thinking maybe charon?) on pay TV. They'd make *billions*. I sure know I'd pay :o)

[*] Now, preferably it would actually be IASA, a yet to be set up division of the UN or something, that we should all pester someone else to get around to doing. You'd basicly only need to front the cost of the first explosive probe, and then it would be self-funding :o)

Is Europa warm enough? (2)

varaani (77889) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468874)

Sunlight is not a requirement for life, the rich life surrounding underwater volcanoes proves that.
If Europa has seas (of liquid water) and volcanic activity, I would bet my money that it has at least bacteria. But is it warm enough?

"Scientists say Europa's surface may be as warm as 0 degrees F.,"

"Located 5 times farther from the Sun than Earth, Europa is too cold, measured at -230 degrees Fahrenheit (-145 degrees Celsius), to support life as we know it."

So, in short, we don't have a clue. :)

Re:..Money Needs To Go Into This.. (1)

hadron (139) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468875)

Well, firstly we can't be certain there is no life there. We can spend decades looking and finding nothing, but still not be certain. For example, life might just have started.

Secondly, life might be possible on Europa, but might not have started yet. Introducing Earth-style life would probably stop native life-forms developing, and hence prevent the existence of native intelligent life on what is, for all we know, the only other habitable planet in the Universe.

I'm not too convinced by those arguments myself, but I'm not willing to discount them without further consideration : it is a more weighty matter than perhaps any other moral dilemma.

Life in Lake Vostok (1)

Kartoffel (30238) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468876)

Current theories hold that Lake Vostok remain liquid due to the intense pressure and possible geothermal activity.

I think it would be incredibly cool to discover geothermal vents at the bottom of the lake. Similar vents (black smokers) exist in the open ocean and support entire ecosystems that live independant of the sun's energy.

I'm not sure how much energy a typical black smoker puts out. It might be too much to account for all of the ice surrounding Lake Vostok. Anyhow, I think it would be incredibly cool to find any kind of life down there. How about sending down an ROV with cameras? Photographs from the bottom of Lake Vostok, wooh!

Fine Lines... (2)

zorgon (66258) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468877)

However, look at the whole budget. YES, they are slamming down tax dollars at a furious rate. But, most don't hit Mars or even leave our own gravity well. Most of our tax dollars being expended by NASA are being slammed right into LockhMart and McBoeingDouglas and Rockwell, not to mention the Kremlin (I'm assuming Energiya, who need the money, aren't getting much of what we give them). The media keep repeating the cost of the lost probes, and I keep thinking, "damn those are real cheap." And don't get me started on the ratio of the earth science budget to the manned spaceflight program...

This is exactly why "faster, cheaper, better" is a good idea. The failure rate does not change, and they lose less each failure. But of course "faster cheaper better" does not apply to manned spaceflight. (n.b. I'm not flaming you, you probably agree, but I want this message to go out...) cheers...
--

Isn't it about time? (2)

Superdave (8390) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468878)

We've known for decades that life can develop in some of the most hostile environments known to man. From the hottest, driest desert, to the deepest depths of the ocean, and even in sulfur-laden and extremely "toxic" areas by undersea lava vents, there is life. And not just the odd creature or two. Every environment on earth (with perhaps the exception of the interior of active volcanos) is TEAMING with life. Fifty years ago, suggesting life existed in some of these places made you a crackpot. Now that we've found life in almost every imaginable environement on earth, why does thinking that equally complex and sophisticated ecosystems have developed in not just a few places in the Universe besides Earth still make you an extremist? I think it's time for the establishment to encourage a little more free-thinking among the scientific research community. There is NO environment on Earth that is truly lifeless. Why would any other planet be much different?

Arthur C. Clarke said this in 1982 (5)

jfunk (33224) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468879)

Read 2010: Odyssey Two, Chapter 11: Ice and Vacuum.

He describes a very interesting creature uniquely adapted to the harsh cold and explains how it could have evolved there.

Yes, it *is* science fiction, but remember that this is Clarke, who loves throwing facts and theories into the writing. It does make it that much more interesting. Try reading "Ghost off the Grand Banks", where he describes a lot about offshore oil drilling and the Hibernia rig only recently completed near here, the Mandelbrot set including the history of it with some very good explanations, plus a lot of discussion on ways to possibly raise the Titanic.

Asimov is good like that as well. I remember reading his retelling of "The Goose That Laid Golden Eggs" from a chemist's point of view. That one fictional short story made chemistry make so much sense that I really started getting interested in it. Now I have a bit of a chemistry lab here sharing space with electronics and computer equipment.

Oh yeah, highly recommended Asimov non-fiction: "The Relativity of Wrong." It's a collection of essays on a myriad of topics. They're quite witty, too. He exhibits a bit of a Dave Barry-ish style in a couple of places. I learned a lot from that book, and the title essay, "The Relativity of Wrong," is very cool.

Ok, got a little off-topic there, but these books were, I think, some of the most important I have ever read.

Re:I forget the exact mission but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468880)

Why do you think so ?

Life can take a rest, even under such harsh conditions.

Re:..Money Needs To Go Into This.. (2)

seaportcasino (121045) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468881)

There is some damn good reasons to investigate Mars.

1) It's closer, so it's cheaper to send probes to and the public will see results faster.

2) I believe it's possible that Mars was once much like Earth is now. It might someday become the most famous archeology site in the solar system! What if sentient beings created cities and such on Mars and these remnants are just waiting for us to discover and explore? We just don't know what might have been before Mars "died", and who knows what's under a 1000 feet of Martian dust for us to discover!

I wouldn't be so sure.. (2)

adamsc (985) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468882)

Nature has a way of surprising us - after all, who thought that we'd find life forms which could survive in nuclear waste, extremely toxic chemical environments or extremely high temperature environments? It's not much of a stretch to imagine something like existing anaerobic bacteria with greater radiation tolerance...

Re:Heh, remember Mars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468883)

We didn't discover microbes on mars yet we just found that silly little rock that fell from the sky that looked like it might have had fossilized (sp?) remains in it

Re:Across the Universe (1)

Kartoffel (30238) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468884)

offtopic? well, at least you got post #42 :)

Baseball (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468885)

Heck, the Chicago Cubs might actually have a fighting chance against against fledgling microbial life forms.

Re:... (1)

Fruan (105302) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468886)

-assuming the presence of water, which seems extremely likely now.-

You're kidding, right?! Europa is basicly a big ol' ball of water, with a crust of ice over the top!

And who says that ET life has to use a system at all like the self replicating double helix we all know and love? Well admitedly the self replicating bit is kinda needed, who know what sort of structures would allow this?

Oops you missed checking the date... AGAIN! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468887)

January 17, 1997 Web posted at: 11:00 p.m. EST This isn't the first time this has happened heh :P

I was born and still live in Europa (1)

Trojan (37530) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468888)

At least that's what the Dutch people call this continent.

Re:Europa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468889)

poor naive americans.... Scotland will be the supreme ruling government of the Planet Earth before the Americans can say "Meept"!

Re:I forget the exact mission but... (2)

Kartoffel (30238) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468890)

Not entirely true.

When one of the Apollo missions landed near an old Surveyor landing site, they found bacteria happily surviving dormant on the Surveyor. It had been on the moon for several years at that point. They returned the bacteria to earth, put it in a culture and it sprang back to life!

Re:Europa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468891)

Let them try.

While I very much doubt that it is indoctrined into Americans in their schools (unlike the list of presidents, the pledge of allegence, civil war stuff, etc), the last time that Americans tried to invade Canda, we sent them packing.

Europa may not be as inhospitable as it sounds... (2)

retep (108840) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468892)

Europa may be cold on the surface but it
is possible that in the core it's much hotter due
to the gravity of Jupiter "kneeding" the water and
heating it up. On earth we have tides from the
moon's gravity. On Europa the tides could be
strong enough to actually heat up it's core by
friction. The heat caused by that might be enough
to allow life, however primitive, to survive.

Re:... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468893)

Why would it be so valuable ? Let's see, while pouring a lot of money into that we a caring much less for people on earth. On the contrary, a lot of other money is poured into inventing technologies to destruct us.

Just a little thought. Once there was that mathematical genius from India. Self taught, a very poor families kid. Might be just now, somewhere, a kid is dying. Perhaps a genius, the one in many years which could have made it possible -- space travel.

Quite possible and quite a gruel joke.

funding (2)

nicky p (106499) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468894)

does anyone seem concerned about the financial prospects for a mission, given nasa's recent success rate? or would this be the time for a private company to stand up to the task? maybe someone could tell bill gates that europa doesn't have windows yet.

Re:Lake Vostok wasn't always inhospitable (1)

eagl (86459) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468895)

It would have to be one hell of an impact to eject life-bearing chunks from earth to another planet... The delta-V would be enormous, and the heat released (imagine just the propellent required to get from the earth to the moon released in a split-second impact...) seems enough to kill anything living that happens to be riding along on.

I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but the mechanics involved don't point towards a friendly ride for even bacteria that could theoretically survive intense heat/pressure plus the cold vacuum of space.

Re:..Money Needs To Go Into This.. (2)

hadron (139) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468896)

You may have heard of SETI? Well, there's another project rather similar to that, except they are trying to find intelligent life on Earth. Check out their website [totl.net] .

Re:... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468897)

...we should get off our butts... ...study of life... ...invaluable... ...mumble, mumble...

Who will pay for it? The way to get to space on a larger scale is to build an infrastructure based upon economic incentives. The only even remotely feasible way of making money in space that comes to mind is mining either the asteroid belt, or some low gravity moon. As a byproduct, you get bases on Mars, Jovian moons, or even space habitats.

See R.A. Heinlein for more inspiration :)

--ac

Re:I've said it before... (1)

Control Group (105494) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468898)

And let's say life does exist there--I think it's safe to assume that such life does not have a "highly technical" society (at least, not as we define it), or we would have seen some evidence of it by now... So the question becomes, if life does exist there, how on earth (literally) are we going to find out about it?

I mean, this could well require actually landing something on Europa, and that has got to be phenomenally more expensive than a satellite pass...maybe even more expensive than a manned Mars mission (tho I'm just making that up...I have no justification for that). Still and all, it certainly does excite the imagination, doesn't it?

Re:I forget the exact mission but... (1)

WORLOK (7690) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468899)

It might not die. Read the post the other guy wrote about bacteria surviving on one of our probes and then being brought back to Earth and revived. Life can be very robust.


==============================
Windows NT has crashed,
I am the Blue Screen of Death,

Re:I've said it before... (2)

DanaL (66515) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468900)

There are a couple of theories that suggest life may have got started in conditions similar to the volcanic vents at the bottom of our oceans and not the 'still, warm pond' than Darwin suggested and that the early Earth was pretty nasty and harsh when life got started.

As long as chemical reactions can take place, there is probably a chance for *some* sort of life (says the non-biologist who has merely read a book or two :) ).

Dana

Funny you should say that (3)

/ (33804) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468901)

If microbes were found on Mars, they could have originated on Earth and moved to Mars (or vice versa), but the chances are low indeed (although admittedly not zero) of Earth and Europan life having a common origin.

I couldn't help but read that last sentance as "[T]he chances are low indeed of Earth and European life having a common origin."

Re:..Money Needs To Go Into This.. (1)

Control Group (105494) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468902)

Er...I'm no ethical expert, but what moral conundrum arises due to introducing microscopic life onto a lifeless moon? Granted, I've got nothing against animal testing (within reason), and I suppose there might be some issue there, but we're talking about microbes here...I don't know anyone who's pro-animal enough to not swat mosquitoes, and I would think that microbes are worth even less worry...

Or am I missing some fundamental ethical isssue?

Re: So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468903)

Didn't you read the theory of Deep life earlier on /.?

And how about underwater vents? I haven't seen a chain of thought of how those got colonized.

Underwater vents would be very plausible on Europa.

And this is old news, plenty of fiction stories have been written on this theory. I haven't seen big advances in our knowledge, stuff that would prove/disprove it. Sulfuric life on Io, and underwater vent worms on Europa. And possibly stuff on Titan (lots of air cover to keep us from seeing them).

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

Exploring/Probing Jupiter (1)

hernick (63550) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468904)

Some people here seem to think that we should explore Jupiter's Moons rather than Mars. I agree that the prospects of finding something interesting (life ?) on the moons seem to be, right now, much higher. But keep in mind that this is only a single discovery, which highlights the possibility of life in strange environements which Europa might or might not have.

However, I believe that there are several advantages to the exploration of Mars first. Remember that Europa is 100 times smaller than the Earth. Europa could not possibly support human life. Mars could. Therefore, it would be much more interesting to have a base on Mars than to have a base on Europa.

Mars is also much nearer to us - it takes what, 3 or 4 years at full speed to get to Jupiter. Our technology is much closer to allowing us to do productive exploration of Mars. I'm not against exploring Europa and the other moons of Jupiter in the future, but right now we should focus on what we already begun: the Exploration of Mars.

What do you think ? Or should we just scrap the Mars project and go to Jupiter right away :) I don't think that the budget of NASA can sustain focused exploration of both planets..

Maybe life could survive on Europa, but... (1)

jesser (77961) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468905)

how would it get there? I doubt Earth life could have come from rocks, or from an extremely cold lake. It had to arise somewhere where there was lots of water, energy, and nutrients. It is possible that life could have arrived there by meteor [newscientist.com] , though. (In fact, some argue [panspermia.org] that life on Earth probably comes from space because it is so difficult for a planet to create life on its own)

tests for life on europa? (2)

maripuri (110332) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468906)

i actually did a project on testing for life on europa during highschool. during the final semester, groups devised ways of testing for life on other planets (integrating our knowledge of physics, chemistry, and biology). Most of the other groups centered on definitions of life directly derived from our own existance.

we, on the other hand, decided to change the definition because basing all "life" in the universe on our planet would be self centered. ;-)

we decided to use the idea of entropy. as entropy increases (disorder), heat is given off (general thermodynamics). if one could measure heat changes in a sample of space material from the planet in question and somehow filter out heat given off by exothermic chemical reactions, one could establish a criteria for finding life on other planets that doesn't have to follow the "cell as the basis of life" theory. of course, this was a trivial highschool idea, but it seems to make perfect sense. living things have to utilize environmental energy to survive, and one of the by products of that usage should be heat (or a positive entropy). why couldn't this work? and its less limited than saying all life has to have cells, uses water, and is made of some formation of carbon .... comments?

saugar maripuri
saugar@yahoo.com

Re:Life on Europa? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468907)

in 2010, before jupiter turned into lucifer, there were fish living under the ice

Re:Arthur C. Clarke said this in 1982 (1)

randombit (87792) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468908)

Asimov is good like that as well. I remember reading his retelling of "The Goose That Laid Golden Eggs" from a chemist's point of view.

LOL. That was a great story. I remember reading it a long time ago and loving it, but I had forgetten who had written it.

Re:Is Europa warm enough? (1)

discore (80674) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468909)

Well we have all heard about sea creatures living in sub-zero ocean enviorments. Although if the entire ocean is surrounded by ice I'm not seeing where organisms would get the nutrients to live.

Its all up the in air.

Tyler

Re:Europa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468910)

MEEPT!

Re:... (1)

Fruan (105302) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468911)

I said this in a previous post, but I think its worth saying again. NASA could easily become self funded by staging huge, spectatcular explosive dismemberment-in-space on pay TV.

I sure know *I'd* pay up to 20 dollars to see Charon blowen to bits by a NASA probe :o)

Hell. If you didn't want to actually blow bits of the sloar sytem up, you could just crash some probes into each other. Or dive something into Sol :o)

Which reminds me of Douglas Adams and Kakrafroon.

OPEN SOURCE ALIENS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468912)

fat-time charlie wobbled down the street with his lubricating midget rapid fire pellet gun tucked comfortable under his arm. with his large, sausage of a free hand he reached behind him and pulled up his oversized pants.
ahead, he noticed a tall, thin man with long blonde hair waving a book in the air. fat-time approached him, "howdy, whatcha got there?"
"this is the oldest open source book known to man, brother. it's the holy bible. king james version."
"gee!" fat-time's eyes widened, "what's in it?!"
"it tells the story of all man kind, brother. it says we are the center of the universe and god created the world for us. we are his only children. rejoice, brother!"
a tear rolled down fat-time's fleshy cheek, "god bless you sir!"
"and god bless you, brother," the man yelled, as fat-time ambled on his way.
"when can we get some cheese, charlie," the midget begged.
"hang on a sec, lubie, let me stop and buy a paper from this gentleman here. maybe i can find a superhero adventure in there."
fat-time shuffled up to the newspaper salesman standing on the street corner, "what's happenin' in the world today, sir?"
the newspaper salesman adjusted his hat to shade his eyes from the glare of the morning sun, "why, they've gone and found life on another world! europa... a moon of jupiter!"
fat-time's face grew red, like a giant ball of uncooked hamburger, "you blaspheming bastard!"
fat-time grabbed the legs of his lubricating midget rapid fire pellet gun and unleashed a torrent of death pellets onto the saleseman.
the salesman crumpled to the ground in a quivering heap of unviable flesh.
fat-time tucked a newspaper under his free arm, "now, let's go get some cheese."

thank you.

Re:I've said it before... (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468913)

Nasty and harsh and bizzare.
I was reading on some Astronomy pages how the moon is picking up rotational energy from the earth. Slowing down the rotation of the earth 1.5ms per century and pushing away the moon 3.8 cm per year.

So, assuming these changes are constant, an earth day 3.6 billion years ago was 8.1 hours and the moon was 1/3 closer to the earth as it is now.

No wonder cave men were brutish and stupid, imagine only sleeping 4 hours a night! :-)

Later
Erik Z

Re:Across the Universe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468914)

i love that song. those are some of the most beautiful lyrics ever written. i wish lennon was still alive.

Re:..Money Needs To Go Into This.. (2)

ATMonk (121643) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468915)

That's one of the reasons for an international space station -- so we have a launch point without all the overhead of booster rockets. Also, we can use it to assemble larger spacecraft from components that are shot up using smaller, cheaper boosters.

Mars would potentially be better, if it has enough raw materials to build spacecraft there, "from scratch". (IIRC, the plan for a manned mission involves sending an advance probe to synthesize fuel from the enviroment, so when we get there we can just fill'er up and head home.) Otherwise, there's not much point building a spacecraft here, then sending it to Mars, just so we can launch it again from there.

Re:I've said it before... (2)

Dave Scherer (32353) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468916)

"In the space of one hundred and seventy six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over a mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oölitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-pole. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo [Illinois] and New Orleans will have joined their streets together and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact. "
-- Mark Twain

it's all life. No need to check. (1)

barryvoeten (5508) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468917)

Ever since the common 'holy' spirit has begun to fade, people forgot the whole universe is life in itself.
Earth is alive. Sun is life. Moon too. Different tho.

Ever tried to send a spaceship to mars to check out the hood?
Every ancient Roman could have told you it is the planet
of war and death, which is part of life as well.

It's all life. Isn't it nice ;-)
So, let's cut these stupid programs which bring forth nothing but wasted breath.

Meanwhile, on Europa... (4)

jd (1658) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468918)

ENN (Europa News Network) Studios:

"Scientists at the Oversea Laboratory, in Glurgleplic's Crater, have long been researching the question of whether there is life on the third planet from the Sun, Arret. Now, their latest findings suggest that there may indeed be life, but that it's probably very simple. Studies by the group have found that bipedal life can survive such harsh conditions. Radio astronomers have detected modulated radiation from the planet, but discount it's significance. 'There is no intelligent content in any of the radio emissions', one of the scientists said."

"Not all scientists agree, though. 'A very highly amplified EMR scan shows the occasional image of a clearly aquatic life-form, with a white belly, yellow feet and a yellow mouth. This image is usually near the symbols TUX. That some life there is clearly capable of seeing the majesty and excellence of aquatic life of this form is a clear sign of some measure of intelligence."

Re:Across the Universe (1)

fReNeTiK (31070) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468919)

Thank you for brightening up my day! That was a song I loved when I was a child, but I completely forgot about it...

Mmmm... (1)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468920)

Okay. Just... ummm... don't land there. Last thing we need is another disease. :\

that's easy. (1)

jetpack (22743) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468921)

I too [127.0.0.1] can write an article [127.0.0.1] that has so many obfuscated links [127.0.0.1] that you are almost guaranteed [127.0.0.1] to be confused [127.0.0.1] . And make sure you follow [127.0.0.1] all the links, otherwise you are sure [127.0.0.1] to be lost at sea [127.0.0.1] .

Sigh. (0)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468922)

If I lived in a place like Europa, I'd want to leave. That's probably why all the microbes moved to earth. Do you have any idea how *cold* it is out there?!

Re:... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468923)

This would probably work for a little while. But in order for a long-term infrastructure to emerge, there has to be a very good reason: resources. To see why, look at our history. It is what exploration and conquest were always about. Once it was known there is lots of gold in South America, the Europeans were cranking out mission after mission to go cross the Atlantic.

Similarly, until the proverbial gold (e.g. metals, uranium, propellant) is discovered somewhere on the asteroids or some moon, you won't see anyone throwing major effort into space travel. However, you do need to keep looking for the gold. A small scale space program is a good way of going about it; and if you can fund it by detonating nukes in outer space, so be it :)

--ac

Re:tests for life on europa? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1468924)

>if one could measure heat changes in a sample of space material from the planet in question and somehow filter out heat given off by exothermic chemical reactions, one could establish a criteria for finding life on other planets... But life IS an exothemic reaction, or rather, millions of them packaged in an attractive carrying case (i.e. the cell).

Re:I forget the exact mission but... (1)

pben (22734) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468925)

Human kind has never put anything on the surface of Europa. We have only flown by and taken pictures. It would be a very dirty craft that could seed life from many miles above the surface.

So whose clean room is clean enough for you?

Re:Wait, there's a signal coming in... (1)

debrain (29228) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468926)

Great minds do think alike I guess!
Fools seldom differ ... ;)

on the next Rocky and Bullwinkle (tm)... (1)

Diggety_Dank (12909) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468927)

On the next fantastic episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle, "Life on the Moons of Jupiter?" or "How to distract the media from your failures - A NASA publication"..

common life origin for europa and earth (1)

yuriwho (103805) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468928)

If you are willing to accept the possibility of earth and mars haveing a common life origin, presumably via impact crater ejecta, then you believe that life could survive the freezing vacuum of space and the ionizing radiation from the sun.

It then follows that life-containing material ejected from earth could have landed on europa.

If you accept this line of thinking then it is likely that all life in the solar system could have a common origin in being derived from ejecta from planets in distant solar systems and thus may not have arisin on earth in the first place.

We are aliens!

Re:I've said it before... (2)

NMerriam (15122) | more than 14 years ago | (#1468929)

It would cost considerably less than a manned mars mission, but obviously more than an unmanned mars mission.

But its not as much more expensive as you might imagine -- once you've got it *launched*, the issues are pretty much the same no matter where its going (so long as you're willing to accept that it will take longer to get there, and communications will be slower). Surviving the entry and landing on europa wouln't be much worse than mars (although obviously we're having some difficulty there).

Sending a probe to Jupiter itself would be tough, with the gravitational issues and the lack of any solid ground for it to sit on. Likewise, landing on somewhere like pluto would be an issue because then you're talking about serious communications problems. But mars vs europa is mostly an issue of distance and time more than anything technically challenging...
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