Author Topic: Proposed Europa Missions  (Read 96624 times)

Online Galactic Penguin SST

  • Geek Penguin in GTO
  • Global Moderator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5251
  • Liked: 614
  • Hong Kong
Re: Proposed Europa Missions
« Reply #100 on: 03/23/2013 04:10 AM »
A little politics but only for reference.

Quote
Provided, That $75,000,000  6
shall be for pre-formulation and/or formulation activities  7
for a mission that meets the science goals outlined for the  8
Jupiter Europa mission in the most recent planetary  9
science decadal survey

What about this? What's that for?

I thought Europa missions have already been studied over and over...  ???

I don't know, but if I had to guess, that's an earmark for JPL. That's to throw them some more technology development money. They have already gotten a lot of money over the years (over $400 million starting around 2002 for JIMO tech development). Yes, Europa has been studied over and over. My guess is that the money will go for radiation hardened electronics research, and JPL overhead. JPL always has overhead.

I wonder after all if flying to Ganymede would have been the better option - while not as "sexy" as Europa, it does have an ocean underneath after all. The radiation level is lower there - hence the ESA JUICE is now targeting there instead of Europa, and that the Russians are making noises for making a lander for this mission (which I took with a handful of salt  ::)). It would be the intermediate step towards an eventual Europa surface mission.
Chinese spaceflight is a cosmic riddle wrapped in a galactic mystery inside an orbital enigma... - (not) Winston Churchill

Offline spectre9

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2401
  • Liked: 32
  • Australia
Re: Proposed Europa Missions
« Reply #101 on: 03/23/2013 04:40 AM »
Thanks for the reply Blackstar.

I guess it's just a risk reduction to get prepared for when the stars align and the mission is funded.

As for Ganymede JUICE will be orbiting it for years. NASA doesn't have to go there as they'll just be duplicating the science done by ESA.

NASA has access to RTGs and Europa is their 2nd highest priority planetary flagship. I would hope the mission launches sometime in before 2030 which is likely unless the next survey shafts it into 2nd place again after Mars 2020 is underway.

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8444
  • Liked: 706
Re: Proposed Europa Missions
« Reply #102 on: 03/23/2013 12:23 PM »
I guess it's just a risk reduction to get prepared for when the stars align and the mission is funded.


I suspect nobody involved knows how they will spend that money now other than to keep paying salaries of people at JPL. Congress cannot really initiate a "new start" of a program; the president has to do that. One possible good way to spend that money would be to start buying another MMRTG for this mission. That's hardware that could probably be purchased now even if it is not incorporated into a spacecraft for another 20 years (RTGs are mostly structure).

I know that JPL management, and to a lesser extent the broader scientific community, is concerned about losing a valuable resource in the form of all the good people at JPL with unique skills. I suspect that this money is partly intended to keep them employed. But it's also a case that there is a member of Congress who has no political interest in JPL (he comes from another state) who has a lot of personal interest in a Europa mission. He thinks it is cool and wants it to happen. He may be partly responsible for this language in the bill.
« Last Edit: 03/23/2013 12:32 PM by Blackstar »

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8444
  • Liked: 706
Re: Proposed Europa Missions
« Reply #103 on: 03/23/2013 12:31 PM »
I wonder after all if flying to Ganymede would have been the better option - while not as "sexy" as Europa, it does have an ocean underneath after all. The radiation level is lower there - hence the ESA JUICE is now targeting there instead of Europa, and that the Russians are making noises for making a lander for this mission (which I took with a handful of salt  ::)). It would be the intermediate step towards an eventual Europa surface mission.

The U.S. scientific community has a different view. Without looking this up, I think that the issue is that Ganymede's ocean is not as thick and scientists do not believe that it touches the core. In other words, it is water sandwiched between two layers of ice, whereas Europa's ocean is believed to have rock on the bottom and ice on top. This is important because the possibility of life is believed to be greater if the water is enriched with minerals by touching the rock. (I would also guess that you'd get more circulation, but I don't know that.)

The American scientific community has more geologists and biologists, so they are more interested in the search for life. Plus rocks.

The European community has a different bias. They have more scientists interested in magnetosphere physics. Ganymede is therefore where they want to go.

At times, science can be somewhat like the drunk who looks for his car keys under the street lamp because that's where the light is. Scientists pick things to study because that is what interests them, not necessarily because they are what are most "important" in some objective sense. I haven't looked at the latest plans for JUICE, but in earlier iterations they were going to try to do at least a couple of flybys of Europa.

Online Zed_Noir

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1364
  • Liked: 100
  • Canada
Re: Proposed Europa Missions
« Reply #104 on: 03/23/2013 10:23 PM »
Well, uh oh...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21341176

Ice blades threaten Europa landing
;D
Well one simple solution is to clear a landing zone for the lander like they used to do in SE Asia for improvise jungle helo pads. Maybe with a cluster kinetic impacters that will take some close up images before impacting with a separate launch several weeks prior to the lander launch.

Of course this idea is wild & wacky. Probably not workable.

Offline Alpha_Centauri

  • Full Member
  • **
  • Posts: 217
  • Liked: 15
  • UK
Re: Proposed Europa Missions
« Reply #105 on: 03/23/2013 11:26 PM »
The American scientific community has more geologists and biologists, so they are more interested in the search for life. Plus rocks.

The European community has a different bias. They have more scientists interested in magnetosphere physics. Ganymede is therefore where they want to go.

It isn't that the European scientific community is any less interested in Europa (or for that matter geology or biology...) it's simply that the technical challenges would push a European Europa mission well over the L-class mission financial threshold and so could only ever be part of an international collaboration.  Remember JUICE is the phoenix from the ashes of ESA's contribution to EJSM, JGO.

Ganymede does however provide a useful test of the subsurface studies required on Europa and other icy moons, and on a budget more affordable in the economic times.

Offline plutogno

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 524
  • Liked: 42
  • Toulouse, France and Milan, Italy
Re: Proposed Europa Missions
« Reply #106 on: 03/24/2013 08:28 AM »
Without looking this up, I think that the issue is that Ganymede's ocean is not as thick and scientists do not believe that it touches the core. In other words, it is water sandwiched between two layers of ice, whereas Europa's ocean is believed to have rock on the bottom and ice on top.

I think that another important difference is that Europa's ocean is much closer to the surface than that of Ganymede (a few kilometers instead of tens of kilometers)
I'm one of the most durable and fervent advocates of space exploration, but my take is that we could do it robotically at far less cost and far greater quantity and quality of results.
James Van Allen

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8444
  • Liked: 706
Re: Proposed Europa Missions
« Reply #107 on: 04/02/2013 09:40 PM »
It isn't that the European scientific community is any less interested in Europa (or for that matter geology or biology...) it's simply that the technical challenges would push a European Europa mission well over the L-class mission financial threshold and so could only ever be part of an international collaboration.  Remember JUICE is the phoenix from the ashes of ESA's contribution to EJSM, JGO.

Sorry for the late reply. I don't read all the threads on this site regularly.

I'm going to disagree on the first point, with the proviso that I don't have direct experience with this, but am basing it upon what I've heard from people who do have direct experience (in other words, maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about). And what I've heard is that the European community is more biased toward magnetospheric physics than the American planetary science community (where magnetosphere physics is often ignored). Now that's a relative thing, so your mileage may vary. But the United States did build up a substantial astrobiology community over the past two decades, and that helps tilt the scales as well.

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8444
  • Liked: 706
Re: Proposed Europa Missions
« Reply #108 on: 04/02/2013 09:43 PM »
Well one simple solution is to clear a landing zone for the lander like they used to do in SE Asia for improvise jungle helo pads. Maybe with a cluster kinetic impacters that will take some close up images before impacting with a separate launch several weeks prior to the lander launch.

Of course this idea is wild & wacky. Probably not workable.


It's not workable. What you want is a predictable landing site. One problem with trying to blast it flat is that you have no way of knowing if that is actually going to work. What happens if you try this and the spacecraft looks down and all it sees is more lousy terrain? Indeed, one of the problems with trying to blast landing zones in the jungle during Vietnam was that it created a lot of debris that then got in the way.

What you want is a mission that finds a flat spot.

Offline copernicus

  • Member
  • Member
  • Posts: 64
  • Liked: 0
Re: Proposed Europa Missions
« Reply #109 on: 05/09/2013 02:55 AM »
   Here is a link to an update on the status of the Europa Clipper mission.  I wrote it as a guest on Van Kane's "Future Planetary Exploration" website. 

http://futureplanets.blogspot.com/2013/05/europa-clipper-update.html

I hope that it answers some questions about the mission. 




Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8444
  • Liked: 706
Re: Proposed Europa Missions
« Reply #110 on: 05/09/2013 01:37 PM »
I'm not so sure about the $75 million earmarked for Europa. Is it really intended to fund Europa Clipper, or to send money to JPL? I'm not sure that there's an efficient way to spend that money on Europa studies. It is too little money to start development, and too much to perform studies. Now if it goes into something like the RTGs, that would be useful. You could build a new MMRTG for Europa Clipper and put it on the shelf and use it fifteen years from now.

Good reference to Solar Probe, however. I had forgotten about that. There's a good story behind the creation of Solar Probe Plus. My limited understanding/memory is that Congress kept putting money in the budget for that but NASA kept ignoring them. NASA just did not think that they could afford Solar Probe. Finally, Alan Stern said to that community (this is almost a direct quote from a talk he gave) "Do you want 100% of nothing or 80% of something?" And he forced them to redesign Solar Probe into a mission that NASA could afford and got a new start on it.
« Last Edit: 05/09/2013 01:38 PM by Blackstar »

Offline JohnFornaro

  • Not an expert
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9090
  • Liked: 554
  • Delta-t is the salient metric.
  • Planet Eaarth
    • Design / Program Associates
Re: Proposed Europa Missions
« Reply #111 on: 05/13/2013 01:39 PM »
Quote
"On Earth, everywhere where there's liquid water, we find life," said Robert Pappalardo, a senior research scientist at Nasa's jet propulsion laboratory in California, who led the design of the Europa Clipper.

"Mars exploration is part of the bigger picture of human exploration," said Pappalardo. "However, part of Nasa's mission is to go explore and that should include places that are an extremely high scientific priority. It really is one of the most profound questions we can ask: is there life elsewhere in the solar system?"

Whereas Mars might have been habitable billions of years ago, he said, Europa might be a habitable environment for life today. If it took 50 years before humans ended up sending probes and then landers to Europa, Pappalardo said, "we're going to look back and say we should have been doing this all along Ė and that would be tragic".

That would be tragic.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline Star One

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2861
  • Liked: 166
  • UK
Re: Proposed Europa Missions
« Reply #112 on: 05/13/2013 05:29 PM »
   Here is a link to an update on the status of the Europa Clipper mission.  I wrote it as a guest on Van Kane's "Future Planetary Exploration" website. 

http://futureplanets.blogspot.com/2013/05/europa-clipper-update.html

I hope that it answers some questions about the mission.

Thanks for that link. Pretty sad state of affairs that Congress have to 'kick' NASA into putting some money into this program.
« Last Edit: 05/13/2013 05:31 PM by Star One »

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8444
  • Liked: 706
Re: Proposed Europa Missions
« Reply #113 on: 05/13/2013 08:05 PM »
Thanks for that link. Pretty sad state of affairs that Congress have to 'kick' NASA into putting some money into this program.

Not really.

You cannot do everything. You have to establish priorities and fund the things you can reasonably do. They've established the priorities. Read the decadal survey.

What may be happening (and I say "may" because I don't really know) is that Congress may be earmarking this money not because of the program, but because of where it is being done (JPL). In other words, it's pork. It is hypocritical to decry pork in general but say that it is acceptable as long as the money is being spent on the particular flavor of pork that you enjoy.



There is, of course, a lot more that could be said about the whole subject, but I'd have to start writing a textbook.

Offline ChileVerde

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1176
  • Liked: 3
  • La frontera
Re: Proposed Europa Missions
« Reply #114 on: 05/14/2013 05:48 PM »

There is, of course, a lot more that could be said about the whole subject, but I'd have to start writing a textbook.

You might want to start doing that, or at least a book of some sort on the subject. The world will thank you for it.

Actually, it probably won't, but it should. Such is the way of the world.

"I canít tell you which asteroid, but there will be one in 2025," Bolden asserted.

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8444
  • Liked: 706
Re: Proposed Europa Missions
« Reply #115 on: 05/15/2013 01:21 PM »

There is, of course, a lot more that could be said about the whole subject, but I'd have to start writing a textbook.

You might want to start doing that, or at least a book of some sort on the subject. The world will thank you for it.

Actually, it probably won't, but it should. Such is the way of the world.



Nobody cares.

As you may know, there's a whole process for developing priorities for space science missions in each of the disciplines. It is difficult for people who are not intimately involved in that process (and even difficult for some people who ARE involved in that process) to understand how it works. But it does work, and it actually works pretty darn well. We have been working on improving that process, and there is always room for making things better. But I think that the American taxpayers and the American scientific community are both served well by how it all works. It would take a lot of time and effort to explain all of that to outsiders.

Now how does that relate to Europa? Well, the process, as enshrined in the decadal survey, came up with a series of decision rules for how to plan the planetary science program over the next decade, and also a priority list for the flagship missions, with starting Mars sample return first, and Europa second. There was a lot of work and careful consideration that led to those recommendations, and as close to a consensus opinion as you could get out of the scientific community. Abandoning that approach, or shortcutting it, simply because you disagree with it, could cause a lot of damage to the overall health of the program.

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8444
  • Liked: 706
Re: Proposed Europa Missions
« Reply #116 on: 05/15/2013 03:10 PM »
Dunno if this is accurate, but it does seem to be a case of what I mentioned in the previous post, where the decadal survey essentially said to protect Discovery and research budgets before giving money to flagships, but the administration is doing the opposite. Of course, this could also be interpreted as the administration saying to Congress: "Okay, if you want to earmark money for Europa, we'll cut it out of other things that you think are important too. You're welcome."


http://spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=44031

"After removing essentially all of funds added by Congress to Planetary Science, NASA and and others in the Administration have further chosen to reallocate significant funds from present planetary research and Discovery budgets to pay for new studies in support of a future Europa mission. The next Discovery call will certainly be delayed. The impact to research programs will be severe - further reduced selection rates can be anticipated. Might existing awards be retroactively reduced? Damage is made worse by the fact that these cuts are being implemented in the final months of the fiscal year."
« Last Edit: 05/15/2013 03:18 PM by Blackstar »

Offline Star One

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2861
  • Liked: 166
  • UK
Re: Proposed Europa Missions
« Reply #117 on: 05/15/2013 07:02 PM »
Dunno if this is accurate, but it does seem to be a case of what I mentioned in the previous post, where the decadal survey essentially said to protect Discovery and research budgets before giving money to flagships, but the administration is doing the opposite. Of course, this could also be interpreted as the administration saying to Congress: "Okay, if you want to earmark money for Europa, we'll cut it out of other things that you think are important too. You're welcome."


http://spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=44031

"After removing essentially all of funds added by Congress to Planetary Science, NASA and and others in the Administration have further chosen to reallocate significant funds from present planetary research and Discovery budgets to pay for new studies in support of a future Europa mission. The next Discovery call will certainly be delayed. The impact to research programs will be severe - further reduced selection rates can be anticipated. Might existing awards be retroactively reduced? Damage is made worse by the fact that these cuts are being implemented in the final months of the fiscal year."

I imagine this will result in yet another tug of war between the various sides which will no doubt do no one any good in the end.

That said and I am aware of what the survey recommended but you have to admit we do seem to have a number of quite vocal scientific proponents in favour of the Europa mission so it is not like there isn't support for it out there.
« Last Edit: 05/15/2013 07:08 PM by Star One »

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8444
  • Liked: 706
Re: Proposed Europa Missions
« Reply #118 on: 05/15/2013 07:35 PM »
1-I imagine this will result in yet another tug of war between the various sides which will no doubt do no one any good in the end.

2-That said and I am aware of what the survey recommended but you have to admit we do seem to have a number of quite vocal scientific proponents in favour of the Europa mission so it is not like there isn't support for it out there.

1-Yes and no. Note that what is going on here is that JPL got itself an earmark. That's money that is specifically going to JPL because they have political clout. Now that's not a good thing. The planetary science community includes a lot of competition, which makes for better science and also better spending of money. Anything that shortcuts the competition is probably bad. So, just because this earmark happened, should everybody else who plays by the rules just roll over and give up? Should they let the process just fall apart?

2-So what? People who lost out complain. Yeah, that's happened. But should they tear everything apart because they didn't get what they wanted?

There's no good way to discuss this without sounding nastier than I want to be about it. There's a lot of nuance and complexity to the whole issue that I just could not write down, and I'm not anti-Europa. I am against bypassing procedures and processes that work pretty good at keeping politics out of the way we select planetary science missions.

But if you watched the whole thing play out over several years, you'd have a better understanding of what went on. In short: the Europa advocates walked into the decadal survey with a mission proposal that was fat and bloated and not able to be funded (it would have wiped out the entire planetary budget). It was cost estimated at $4.7 billion. There was no way to fund that mission. As a result, it was not placed at the top of the priority list and they were told to go back and redesign their mission so that it was affordable. Now they have done that. But that is no reason that this mission should then come back and stomp all over other priorities for planetary science, including ones that proposed realistic missions from the start. It's kinda like missing the medal in the Olympics because you're fat and out of shape, practicing a bit, and calling for another Olympics a year later so you can win a medal this time. It's unfair to the people who played by the rules.

Offline Star One

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2861
  • Liked: 166
  • UK
Re: Proposed Europa Missions
« Reply #119 on: 05/15/2013 08:55 PM »
Well if they have got themselves more into shape then maybe to be generous to them perhaps that's a basis for congress allocating money to the studies.

Also isn't Europa such a scientifically important mission that it automatically outranks virtually any other proposed mission, it certainly should be the top ranked mission at the next survey. You may not like their approach and from what you have said I can see why, but I do understand why they feel the need to make the noise they do about it.
« Last Edit: 05/15/2013 09:04 PM by Star One »

Tags: