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Low cost Europa lander.

Posted by: RGClark - Mon Aug 10, 2015 7:09 am
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Low cost Europa lander. 
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Post Low cost Europa lander.   Posted on: Mon Aug 10, 2015 7:09 am
The New Horizons mission to Pluto further confirms the great interest the public has for planetary missions. The Mars Curiosity mission got over a billion hits to the NASA web page over a year. And New Horizons mission web page got 10 million hits on July 14th alone.

A lander mission to Europa to explore the subsurface ocean could result in the most revolutionary scientific discovery in human history: the discovery of life on another world. Such a discovery would dwarf even the Apollo missions in importance.

Then it is notable that following the commercial space approach such a mission could be privately financed at the few hundred million dollars range. This would be low enough considering the great interest such a mission would get that it could even be profitable from advertising.

Then I have changed my sig file to indicate such a revolutionary mission could be accomplished at such low cost and in a near time frame.


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Post Re: Low cost Europa lander.   Posted on: Wed Aug 12, 2015 2:32 am
The numbers look good, until we get to the lander, and then things start getting a little iffy. 450 kilograms sounds like a lot, until you start asking things like; "what is the power source?", and "How will it search for life?" and "How will it let us know what it finds?" A mission like this almost demands an orbiter to act as a relay station for sending data back to Earth, as well as sending commands to the lander (submarine?)

Using fissures in the ice to access the water beneath the ice is a great idea, but how do you pilot the craft while looking for fissures? Remember, you will be at the end of a 60 minute delay in data transfer. In other words, if you see something that you want to investigate, what you are seeing was happening an hour ago, and your command inputs will take another hour to reach Europa.

If you want to get funding for deep space exploration, announce that you are starting a search for an asteroid that is made primarily of copper. That is rapidly becoming the most valuable metal on the planet, because it is so difficult to extract from the Earth without incurring a lot of environmental damage, and it is so indispensable for our technology. One of the worst environmental super fund sites is in Butte, Montana, where the former open pit mine has flooded with water made acidic from exposure to the over 10,000 miles of tunnels under the city. The Berkeley Pit is threatening the water table under Butte with contamination from water with the acidity of lemon juice, and so full of heavy metals that it is toxic.

The same combination of open pit and tunnel mining is being proposed for a site in Alaska at the headwaters of one of the most productive salmon spawning streams in the world. We desperately need to find another source of copper, before we destroy the food chain that keeps us alive. There is no doubt that the money exists to fund large projects in space, the trillions of dollars chasing a profit on the worlds stock exchanges right now is evidence of that. All we need to do is to convince a few people that it is worth investing in space technology, and missions to Europa will become a piece of cake.

Imagine:

Multiple landers, each weighing a couple of thousand kilograms, with an orbiting mothership containing the Artificial Intelligence that controls the on-site activities of the probe. Data bandwidth that allows full color pictures to be transmitted in seconds, instead of hours.

During the Deepwater Horizon disaster, we saw a technology that has been brought to maturity through the investment in energy extraction in water thousands of feet deep. Remotely Operated Vehicles did every single piece of work at the well head, one mile down. There was a whole fleet of the machines, and their operators, who fought that blowout for weeks. That technology would never have become so advanced without the investment of millions of dollars by oil companies to enable the drilling of wells in water thousands of feet deep.

If we could just prove that there is oil on Europa, things would be fine.

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Post Re: Low cost Europa lander.   Posted on: Thu Aug 13, 2015 12:42 pm
NASA, et al. already plans to spend its usual ridiculous sums of money sending a orbiter/lander to Europa. So you would be competing with that project for funds/attention, even if it didn't come out of the same bucket of money.

Just about everything about a Europa mission is a challenge, even when cost is no object. Probably one of the toughest solar system targets you can think of.

It would probably be a better choice to pick something closer and easier, at least for the first (actually) private space expedition. Even the boring old Moon next door would be a significant achievement and a first. Played right, it would also be quite lucrative (no, not the Google X prize) over time.


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