Author Topic: Europa Sample Return: Engineering challenges  (Read 1627 times)

Offline SpaceWeaselUMICH

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Europa Sample Return: Engineering challenges
« on: 11/25/2012 05:32 AM »
Hello all. I'll just jump right in.

I recently read a few papers indicating that among the scientific community there is a strong case for the surface-ice of Europa to be less than 10-12 kilometers thick. If this is so, various geological processes could deliver radiolytically produced O2 to the subsurface ocean in quantities that would be sufficient to support a population of large organisms.

This sounds pretty outlandish for obvious reasons. But the science is there; it is not as if I read this in Us Weekly.

The papers also stated that it should be possible for a microbe to live 10-20 centimeters from the surface within a crack in the ice, as this would allow for radiation shielding and variations in environment due to tidal flexing from Jupiter's gravity. So it would be comparatively easy to scoop a couple of those up if they exist. But thats just not very much fun from an engineering perspective, so lets take this a little further.

I have read of engineering experiments done, involving a nuclear reactor heating a probe that might melt through the ice. Reasons this was unfeasible went unspecified. I could only speculate that the ice would freeze behind the probe, and halt its progress. It occurred to me that the cable lowering the probe could perhaps pump the water out of the hole behind itself. This cable would obviously need to be heated also, and contain a line of communications to the science instruments. It seemed pretty plausible to me.

Sample Return may very well be difficult or impossible, but even the above paragraph, I think, should give us some interesting things to debate.

I am not an engineer(yet/possibly). I'm just starting out, actually. Vader might say I am not a jedi yet. :D But I have noticed that many on this site have considerable expertise to bring to the table. Europa is not something I have seen discussed, although it may have been. I thought this might be a fun topic to kick around.

Please forgive me if I have committed a newbie-faux-pas. :)

Offline arachnitect

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Re: Europa Sample Return: Engineering challenges
« Reply #1 on: 11/25/2012 06:56 PM »
Europa Sample Return would be an incredible challenge, but it's not inconceivable. There are plans for a Europa orbiter, and maybe even lander; go read through this thread.

Offline SpaceWeaselUMICH

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Re: Europa Sample Return: Engineering challenges
« Reply #2 on: 11/25/2012 07:09 PM »
Europa Sample Return would be an incredible challenge, but it's not inconceivable. There are plans for a Europa orbiter, and maybe even lander; go read through this thread.


Thanks for the link. I will read through.