NASA Wants Your Ideas on How to Look for Life on Europa

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NASA Wants Your Ideas on How to Look for Life on Europa

Europa Concept

The space agency is currently designing a mission that will cost less than $1 billion and still meet as many of the exploration goals as possible.

NASA is taking design submissions of scientific instruments that would help detect life during an exploratory mission of Europa. The deadline to apply is on October 17, and the winning instrument will be chosen next year to be built for a future mission to Jupiter's moon.

It is theorized that underneath Europa's icy crust lies an abundance of liquid water- an ocean with more water than all of Earth's oceans that could potentially support life. "The possibility of life on Europa is a motivating force for scientists and engineers around the world," said John Grunsfeld, who is the associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "This solicitation will select instruments which may provide a big leap in our search to answer the question: Are we alone in the universe?"

Recently, the U.S. National Research Council published its yearly report with recommendations for NASA and the National Space Foundation's planetary exploration strategy. Covering now until 2022, the report ranked a mission to Europa among the highest priority missions. A future trip would focus on thorough compositional investigation of both the crust and the suspected liquid underneath the surface- as well as understanding the moon's magnetosphere.

Officials from NASA stated that submitted instruments should be specialized to achieve one of those goals. The announcement calls for instruments designed for a spacecraft that will orbit Europa or complete several flybys, since astronomers currently lack the data to safely land on the moon. The submissions will also need to be protected from radiation, as Jupiter is surrounded by a massive amount.

NASA will select 20 proposals in April 2015, and award $25 million to those chosen so that they may further improve their instruments' designs. From there, NASA officials will select eight winners, build the winning instruments for flight, and send them to Europa.

Read more about NASA's upcoming missions here and let us know what you think in the comments!

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

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nuke it from orbit and listen to the pleads for mercy

Its simple!! We used a pressurized cannon to fire urine through the icy crust. Men will immediately see the genius of my plan.

I recommend a reverse gravometric tachyon pulse to cut through any subspace interference (why yes, I have been watching a lot of Star Trek lately. How did you guess?).

In all seriousness, some kind of unmanned probe and/or lander would probably be the best bet at this point, though coordinating its movements would be tricky given how Europa is almost 400 million miles from Earth.

ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS EXCEPT EUROPA. ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE

How to Look for Life on Europa:

1. Travel to france
2. Look around

A probe that leaves a phone-home antenna topside, and then drills or melts its way through the ice until it's through, all the while unspooling cable up to the antenna. If it successfully finds a way through, it takes water samples and uses a video camera connected to a microscope to look for microbial life. Perhaps also equip it with a spooled weighted sampling tool that can take deeper water samples.

Given that there is evidence of fissures and eruptions of material coming from underneath, I would hazard that the best approach would be to simply land, sample, slice, and image ice cores from the this erupted material. Minimal hazard of contamination, minimal deployment of untested technology in an inhospitable environment.

Assuming the system is in fact capable of mixing the deep ocean with the surface by these ice volcanoes, the residuals of life carried up should be functionally fossilized within kilometers of the surface.

Neverhoodian:
I recommend a reverse gravometric tachyon pulse to cut through any subspace interference (why yes, I have been watching a lot of Star Trek lately. How did you guess?).

In all seriousness, some kind of unmanned probe and/or lander would probably be the best bet at this point, though coordinating its movements would be tricky given how Europa is almost 400 million miles from Earth.

Yes but you'd need a class 3 deflector array to bounce the pulse off of to make it work, Or at least one with dynamic protonic field oscillation.

Seriously though. The first thing you have to consider when looking for life is 'Define life' are we talking carbon based oxygen breathers because I don't think they'll find any.

BigTuk:
Seriously though. The first thing you have to consider when looking for life is 'Define life' are we talking carbon based oxygen breathers because I don't think they'll find any.

Well probably not the oxygen or breathing parts. Though you never know.

I would however semi-expect to find anaerobic organisms of some description. Bacteria analogues.

It doesn't matter that much what they're made of if the search method is optical video of petridish samples, looking for something that moves.

So this is less NASA wanting "my" ideas, and more NASA wanting the ideas of some very specific, talented engineers. I mean, I've got ideas (land a probe, melt/drill through the ice, profit), but I'm guessing they don't want to give me 25 million to develop them.

Cerebrawl:

BigTuk:
Seriously though. The first thing you have to consider when looking for life is 'Define life' are we talking carbon based oxygen breathers because I don't think they'll find any.

Well probably not the oxygen or breathing parts. Though you never know.

I would however semi-expect to find anaerobic organisms of some description. Bacteria analogues.

It doesn't matter that much what they're made of if the search method is optical video of petridish samples, looking for something that moves.

Electrons move... atoms move, heck everything moves under the right condition. My contrast there are plenty of living things that don't do a heck of a lot of moving. I mean ever seen a cactus move?

YOu have to consider that all the traits we consider inherrent to living things may only apply to living things on earth since those were traits required to survive within this bisphere. It maynot be so in other biospheres. Heck, is it carbon based? silicon based, helium based? It's hard to imagine what's really possible, but at the same time. narrowing ourselves to looking for what we know invariably means we'll find a whole lot of nothing.

I mean consider SETI looking for signs of intelligent life via radio waves... never mind that another intelligent species might not have developed or even needed to develop radio communication. I mean when all members of your race are linked to and communicate through the all mothers mind... why would you need something as clumsy as radio waves... or even words to communicate ideas. When you have the ability to directly transmit your thoughts you have no need for concepts like 'words' or 'language'.

Giant heat lamps and a couple of mops, aught to help clear things up.

I believe this is good advice for the premeditated stage of development:

Step one: have the involved team watch film Europa Report

Step two: do nothing that the characters did in said film

Addendum: perhaps consider asking yourself "is this an extremely stupid/asinine idea" each time someone thinks of something new; can not stress enough on how vitally important this is

Fill rocket with top 100 songs of the year 2000-2010. Fire at Europa. If they fire it back, bingo.

I mean, or you could send a probe up or something. C'mon NASA, you don't get barely any funding to go on the Internet and straight up ask people for ideas.

How about looking on Mars first, rule that completely out before looking even further away.

Now, I wouldn't recommend this if you believe it would render harm to the possible ecosystem that Europa may be supporting, BUT I understand Newton's laws of motion to be very useful in a space setting. To wit, a rail-shot projectile would reach even greater speeds in space with more-significant impact at the end-point than it would on Earth. If you're looking for an easy way to penetrate the icy crust, look no further than applied physics.

Captcha: Make it so

Oh, the irony...

BigTuk:

Cerebrawl:

BigTuk:
Seriously though. The first thing you have to consider when looking for life is 'Define life' are we talking carbon based oxygen breathers because I don't think they'll find any.

Well probably not the oxygen or breathing parts. Though you never know.

I would however semi-expect to find anaerobic organisms of some description. Bacteria analogues.

It doesn't matter that much what they're made of if the search method is optical video of petridish samples, looking for something that moves.

Electrons move... atoms move, heck everything moves under the right condition. My contrast there are plenty of living things that don't do a heck of a lot of moving. I mean ever seen a cactus move?

YOu have to consider that all the traits we consider inherrent to living things may only apply to living things on earth since those were traits required to survive within this bisphere. It maynot be so in other biospheres. Heck, is it carbon based? silicon based, helium based? It's hard to imagine what's really possible, but at the same time. narrowing ourselves to looking for what we know invariably means we'll find a whole lot of nothing.

Now you're just being obtuse.

Here's what some microbes look like under a microscope: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sxrIvbqBGg

You don't need enough magnification to see atoms and electrons, it's the wrong scale, and yes a petri dish sample of cactus bloody well moves on the cellular scale.

BigTuk:

Cerebrawl:

BigTuk:
Seriously though. The first thing you have to consider when looking for life is 'Define life' are we talking carbon based oxygen breathers because I don't think they'll find any.

Well probably not the oxygen or breathing parts. Though you never know.

I would however semi-expect to find anaerobic organisms of some description. Bacteria analogues.

It doesn't matter that much what they're made of if the search method is optical video of petridish samples, looking for something that moves.

Electrons move... atoms move, heck everything moves under the right condition. My contrast there are plenty of living things that don't do a heck of a lot of moving. I mean ever seen a cactus move?

YOu have to consider that all the traits we consider inherrent to living things may only apply to living things on earth since those were traits required to survive within this bisphere. It maynot be so in other biospheres. Heck, is it carbon based? silicon based, helium based? It's hard to imagine what's really possible, but at the same time. narrowing ourselves to looking for what we know invariably means we'll find a whole lot of nothing.

I mean consider SETI looking for signs of intelligent life via radio waves... never mind that another intelligent species might not have developed or even needed to develop radio communication. I mean when all members of your race are linked to and communicate through the all mothers mind... why would you need something as clumsy as radio waves... or even words to communicate ideas. When you have the ability to directly transmit your thoughts you have no need for concepts like 'words' or 'language'.

You always get someone like this in these threads, thinking they're being clever by taking the philosophical approach... It's not clever. Life is pretty well defined scientifically.

Didn't they have that drill-sub in development for this? What, has that become another pipe dream like colonization?

disgruntledgamer:
How about looking on Mars first, rule that completely out before looking even further away.

We did, we found nothing bar some bacteria, and now were looking on other planets. Like Europa, and Titan.

Nimcha:

You always get someone like this in these threads, thinking they're being clever by taking the philosophical approach... It's not clever. Life is pretty well defined scientifically.

Hey genius. Science is based on observation...it's definitions and classifications are based on those observations. So riddle me this. What does all life that science has observed so far? Carbon-Based, and they're on earth.

There is no reason to actually believe life that developed on other planets would follow the same pattern on earth and if we only define things as living if they match up to what we have already observed then news flash... you're essentially looking for somthing with blinders on.

If science defined all living things as Red and cuboid and it came across something on another planet that was blue and spheroid... would it consider it life?

We have carbon-based life forms on this planet...what do you think silicon based life would look like? Behave like? Would such life even require water?

Cerebrawl:
[quote="BigTuk" post="7.855743.21194896"]

[quote="Cerebrawl" post="7.855743.21194740"]

Now you're just being obtuse.

Here's what some microbes look like under a microscope: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sxrIvbqBGg

You don't need enough magnification to see atoms and electrons, it's the wrong scale, and yes a petri dish sample of cactus bloody well moves on the cellular scale.

Not obtuse.. just open-minded. I never said you'd have to see atoms or electrons. That was made in reference to the idea of looking for things that move.. Pointed out that there are lots of things that move of their own accord that are not considered alive.

As for those microbes. Yes, they look lovely and chances are microbes on other planets, would look nothing like those.

LOok at it this way. Scince is often completely baffled by the sheer diversity of life on our little blue ball. constantly finding new things os riddle me this...try and imagine life that evolves under a completely different set of conditions. See all the life on the planet, evolved and developed under a particular set of rules...Rules that may not apply to other planets. I mean the gravitational difference alone would prompt differences in evolution

BigTuk:

Nimcha:

You always get someone like this in these threads, thinking they're being clever by taking the philosophical approach... It's not clever. Life is pretty well defined scientifically.

Hey genius. Science is based on observation...it's definitions and classifications are based on those observations. So riddle me this. What does all life that science has observed so far? Carbon-Based, and they're on earth.

There is no reason to actually believe life that developed on other planets would follow the same pattern

Yes there is. Occam's Razor for one. There is absolutely no reason to believe anything other than carbon-based life requiring water exists. Only carbon-based life has been observed. We know how to look for it. We will look for it on other planets.

Any more questions?

Cerebrawl:
A probe that leaves a phone-home antenna topside, and then drills or melts its way through the ice until it's through, all the while unspooling cable up to the antenna. If it successfully finds a way through, it takes water samples and uses a video camera connected to a microscope to look for microbial life. Perhaps also equip it with a spooled weighted sampling tool that can take deeper water samples.

There's only one tiny small problem. The ice is likely many hundreds of kilometers thick.

Send Piers Morgan up on the spaceship with a 2 month oxygen supply and a GoPro camera.

Boom! Video proof of life on Europa

BigTuk:

Seriously though. The first thing you have to consider when looking for life is 'Define life' are we talking carbon based oxygen breathers because I don't think they'll find any.

Life is a characteristic distinguishing physical entities having signaling and self-sustaining processes from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased (death), or because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate.

No requirement to be carbon-based. Simples. :)

Cerebrawl:
A probe that leaves a phone-home antenna topside, and then drills or melts its way through the ice until it's through, all the while unspooling cable up to the antenna. If it successfully finds a way through, it takes water samples and uses a video camera connected to a microscope to look for microbial life. Perhaps also equip it with a spooled weighted sampling tool that can take deeper water samples.

This is a good idea. You should draw up the technical specs and submit an entry.

BigTuk:
Not obtuse.. just open-minded. I never said you'd have to see atoms or electrons. That was made in reference to the idea of looking for things that move.. Pointed out that there are lots of things that move of their own accord that are not considered alive.

As for those microbes. Yes, they look lovely and chances are microbes on other planets, would look nothing like those.

Yeah they'd only have to be the same SCALE. Microbe scale, there's both single and multicelled organisms there. I'm not expecting exact replicas, but if there is life at all, microbial life is practically guaranteed. There's a whole bunch of organisms in that petri dish sample.

It does not matter what they're made up of, or how they look, if there's any microbes, they'd be around that scale, and they'd move.

If you'd take a drop of water out of any ocean on earth, except the dead sea(which is too salty to sustain life, it literally sucks the moisture out of cells and kills them), you'd see microbes. They're practically everywhere.

Pinkamena:

Cerebrawl:
A probe that leaves a phone-home antenna topside, and then drills or melts its way through the ice until it's through, all the while unspooling cable up to the antenna. If it successfully finds a way through, it takes water samples and uses a video camera connected to a microscope to look for microbial life. Perhaps also equip it with a spooled weighted sampling tool that can take deeper water samples.

There's only one tiny small problem. The ice is likely many hundreds of kilometers thick.

Well the total water layer: ice crust + ocean is 100 km thick, however there's frequent volcanic geysers out, and while we don't know the actual thickness, the current best estimate(fits the calculations) is 19km thick, and a range of 19-25km has been proposed based on best current models.

You could have an insulated fiberoptic cable around 30kg/km, so for 25km, it's 750kg of cable, that's a pretty solid amount of the weight budget, but doable.

Nimcha:

BigTuk:

Nimcha:

You always get someone like this in these threads, thinking they're being clever by taking the philosophical approach... It's not clever. Life is pretty well defined scientifically.

Hey genius. Science is based on observation...it's definitions and classifications are based on those observations. So riddle me this. What does all life that science has observed so far? Carbon-Based, and they're on earth.

There is no reason to actually believe life that developed on other planets would follow the same pattern

Yes there is. Occam's Razor for one. There is absolutely no reason to believe anything other than carbon-based life requiring water exists. Only carbon-based life has been observed. We know how to look for it. We will look for it on other planets.

Any more questions?

Nope perfectly clear. We'll bve looking for earth life forms on non-earth planets.

This .. much like looking for for live fish in the desert sand, will not turn up much of anything.

Old wisdom... if you want the right answer.. you have to ask the right question.

Nergui:

BigTuk:

Seriously though. The first thing you have to consider when looking for life is 'Define life' are we talking carbon based oxygen breathers because I don't think they'll find any.

Life is a characteristic distinguishing physical entities having signaling and self-sustaining processes from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased (death), or because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate.

*sigh* Yes yes, but have you given any thought to what that means. You know it's like during european colonial expansion. They would define native people as 'uncivilized' or 'savages' . Because of course any civilized being would behave, speak and conduct themselves in the same manner as a white european.

So lets try an experiment... Is the Sun alive? If not, state your proof.

It still needs energy under the ice... so it needs a nuclear reactor. Strip away all that heavy shielding, shoot it up, use the reactor's heat to melt through the ice. Leave relay stations behind every few km that allow for the signal to be sent through the ice via sound (think whale-signals). Then once deep enough, send out smaller subs to do the testing in some distance so whatever you might find isn't instantly ruined by all that radiation.
Overall, it'd probably be huge and if the rocket carrying it messes up, it's raining uranium dust.

BigTuk:

*sigh* Yes yes, but have you given any thought to what that means. You know it's like during european colonial expansion. They would define native people as 'uncivilized' or 'savages' . Because of course any civilized being would behave, speak and conduct themselves in the same manner as a white european.

So lets try an experiment... Is the Sun alive? If not, state your proof.

The Sun does not possess one of the defining characteristics of life within our limited knowledge of it, the ability to reproduce.

Nergui:

BigTuk:

*sigh* Yes yes, but have you given any thought to what that means. You know it's like during european colonial expansion. They would define native people as 'uncivilized' or 'savages' . Because of course any civilized being would behave, speak and conduct themselves in the same manner as a white european.

So lets try an experiment... Is the Sun alive? If not, state your proof.

The Sun does not possess one of the defining characteristics of life within our limited knowledge of it, the ability to reproduce.

But we do know, stars die and we do know stars are born...but we have not completely observed the life-span of a single star. Or and here's another clinchers. We have not seen our sun or any star reproduce.. but what does reproduction of a star look like? COnsidering that our sun is fairly Young as stars go ....it may be considered a juvenile...maybe that's what solar flares are, I mean they do eject solar matter out into the greater cosmos...I mean that's not unlike how many fungi, plants and see creatires produces... fire off and leave it to fate and chance

Simple, really. Bring along 10 tons of Reese's Pieces, one huge hammer and a long string.
Use the hammer to smash through the ice, thread the Reese's Pieces through the string and dangle the string through the hole in the ice. If E.T has taught us anything it's that aliens love Reese's Pieces and will follow the trail no matter where it goes. When the aliens get through the ice cap and into the spaceship play them a prerecorded message extolling peace and happiness to their species. Then ask them if they can get back to us because our space program is complete shit in regards to their UFO program.

BigTuk:

So lets try an experiment... Is the Sun alive? If not, state your proof.

Replication defines life.
The sun cannot replicate itself, therefore it's not alive.
A rock cannot replicate itself.
Certain proteins can replicate themselves, "eating" the available molecules around them to construct another copy of themselves. Therefore they're alive (that's how life appeared on earth, from randomly assembled molecules where one of them was eventually able to construct another one, triggering the life process).

On the NASA stuff, the first problem would be to determine where to dig before digging at all. I think a sismic explorer, mesuring heavy vibrations, would benefit to the mission a lot more. Send it on the surface, send several "impactors" to simulate earthquakes, and look at the 3D rendering of the inner Europa. And if some strangely ordonned structures appear in it, then congrats, you find (intelligent) life.

mtarzaim02:

BigTuk:

So lets try an experiment... Is the Sun alive? If not, state your proof.

Replication defines life.
The sun cannot replicate itself, therefore it's not alive.
A rock cannot replicate itself.
Certain proteins can replicate themselves, "eating" the available molecules around them to construct another copy of themselves. Therefore they're alive (that's how life appeared on earth, from randomly assembled molecules where one of them was eventually able to construct another one, triggering the life process).

On the NASA stuff, the first problem would be to determine where to dig before digging at all. I think a sismic explorer, mesuring heavy vibrations, would benefit to the mission a lot more. Send it on the surface, send several "impactors" to simulate earthquakes, and look at the 3D rendering of the inner Europa. And if some strangely ordonned structures appear in it, then congrats, you find (intelligent) life.

Replication is not proof of life. reproduction is. There's a difference. Secondly, how can you be so sure. Just because we lack the capacity to correlate certain events doesn't mean there isn't one. Remember we're dealing with a living being who's life span is such that the existence of our species could be considered as brief as a blink. The Sun fires off a solar flare now and 50,00 years later in some nebular a new star coalesces. Basically us trying to even comprehend what is going on at the Sun's level would be not unlike The microbes in your intestines comprehending you as an organism.

As for rocks.. well a rock can split, fracture and crack creating two rocks. Leave any rock alone for a long enough and this will happen and so the rock has produced another rock that while having the same relative composition is not identical to it's parent.

The point of this little experiment is to drive home a simple point. You have to keep a very open and flexible mind in these things. In the example of the sun and the rock, guess what. The difference is not in the data but rather how the data is interpreted and if we are too closed minded with the way we interpret data we will miss the truth staring right back at us. The truly brilliant scientists and some of the greatest discoveries came not from new data but rather from someone looking at the existing data in a new way.

Heck the very concept of space-time comes from the simple perspective shift of thinking of gravity not as a force of attraction but as a result of space being bent inwards around an object by the object's mass. That's what differentiates a scientific mind from a religious mind... the ability and willingness to not only shift one's perspective but also to accept that one's perspective is neither right nor wrong but almost certainly incomplete.

Cerebrawl:

Pinkamena:

Cerebrawl:
A probe that leaves a phone-home antenna topside, and then drills or melts its way through the ice until it's through, all the while unspooling cable up to the antenna. If it successfully finds a way through, it takes water samples and uses a video camera connected to a microscope to look for microbial life. Perhaps also equip it with a spooled weighted sampling tool that can take deeper water samples.

There's only one tiny small problem. The ice is likely many hundreds of kilometers thick.

Well the total water layer: ice crust + ocean is 100 km thick, however there's frequent volcanic geysers out, and while we don't know the actual thickness, the current best estimate(fits the calculations) is 19km thick, and a range of 19-25km has been proposed based on best current models.

You could have an insulated fiberoptic cable around 30kg/km, so for 25km, it's 750kg of cable, that's a pretty solid amount of the weight budget, but doable.

The deepest hole ever drilled on earth is a little over 12 km deep. I see many problems with drilling even deeper, let alone on a different planet. Mainly, it's the pressure at these depths. It's true that ice weighs less than rock and that the gravity of Europa is less than earths, but I don't think drilling and materials technology is there yet for it to be feasible.
Actually, when I think about, I guess a sort of melter could work. Like, a probe with one hot side slowly melting its way down while the path freezes behind it. It would need a hefty powersource though, and a lot of fiberoptics to a top base station.

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