Dive Europa : A Search-for-Life Initiative
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Liquid water, underwater volcanoes and possibly life forms have been suggested to be present beneath the estimated 10 km-thick ice shell of Europa, the Jovian satellite J2. Europa's possible ocean is estimated to be 100-200 km deep. Despite the great depth of the Europa's ocean, hydrostatic pressure at the seafloor would be 130-260 MPa, corresponding to 13-26 km depth of a theoretical Earth's ocean. The hydrostatic pressure is not beyond the edge of existing deep-sea technology. Here we propose exploration of Europa's deep-sea by the use of current technologies, taking a symbolic example of a deep submergence vehicle Shinkai 6500 which dives to a depth of 6.5 km deep (50 km depth of Europa's ocean). Shinkai 6500 is embarkable in the payload bay of the Space Shuttles in terms of size and weight for the transportation to a Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Secondary boost is needed for interplanetary flight from the LEO.On-orbit assembly of the secondary booster is a technological challenge. The International Space Station (ISS) and ISS-related technologies will facilitate the secondary boost. Also, ice shell drilling is a challenge and is needed before the dive into Europa's ocean. These challenges should be overcome during a certain leading time for matured experience in the ISS operation.
- Biological Sciences in Space
Biological Sciences in Space 12(2), 126-130, 1998-06
Japanese Society for Biological Sciences in Space