Exploring Europa is Still a Possibility
Written by Yaron Schoen · 10 March 2014
If we ever find life on another planet, Jupiter‘s moon Eurpoa might be our best bet. The moon is covered with a thick crust of ice, but is believed to have liquid water under the ice. And we all know that finding water might lead to finding life. So discovering an ocean on a different planet is a huge.
But it’s not going to be easy getting there. The good news is that last week’s unveiling of NASA’s 2015 budget included a small $17 million budget for a Europa robotic mission. That’s surprising especially considering NASA said already that they have no cash left for large flagship missions. So how is this possible?
NASA found a surprising ally from the most unlikely places: congress. Houston Congressman John Culberson, apparently a space geek, and who is to become chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee responsible for NASA’s budget, added additional funding to the Europa cause.
The following is a quote from Culberson’s interview on chron.com
I’m certain that there’s life elsewhere in the universe. And I’m also certain that the first place we will discover life on another world is Europa. It will be discovered in the oceans of Europa. And it will be a robotic mission designed and flown by NASA that discovers it. About an hour and a half ago I got off the phone with Robert Ballard, who discovered the Titanic. We’ve become friends through my interest in science. He wanted to be remembered for something other than the discovery of the Titanic. So I introduced him to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and told him he should get involved in the Europa mission. I think he should help design a penetrator, swimmer, sniffer that would punch through the ice of Europa and find and photograph life in Europa’s oceans. I think it’s going to be a match made in heaven.
If I’m successful in becoming chairman of the subcommittee that’s going to be right when the Europa mission will need its maximum funding. It needs to be a flagship mission. The biggest and best we’ve ever flown. I really feel blessed. I feel like I’m one of the luckiest people on Earth. I’m blessed with a wonderful family, a great district, representing Houston in the greatest state in the greatest country in the world. I got on this incredible committee where I will be in exactly the right place at the right time to be able to help turn NASA around, to not only preserve America’s leadership role in space, but I also hope to be a key part in discovering life on another world for the first time. We’re only going to have one chance at this in our lifetimes. We’ve got one shot. I want to make sure you and I are here to see those first tube worms and lobsters on Europa.
Really exciting stuff, especially coming from a member of congress! It gives me hope that I might be able to witness, in my lifetime, the discovery of life on another planet.