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Europa

Artist's impression of the surface of Europa (Image: NASA)

We’re used to expendable boosters on space missions, but what about an expendable crew? That is essentially the long-term plan of Objective Europa, a group led by Kristian von Bengtson, founder of Copenhagen Suborbitals, that's contemplating the challenges of sending astronauts to Jupiter's moon Europa to look for life. The only catch is that the trip is one-way with no hope of return at the end of the mission.  Read More

Europa (Image: NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk)

It's an icy inhospitable world, a little smaller than our own Moon: Europa. It's one of Jupiter's four largest satellites, the Galilean moons named after the polymath astronomer who discovered them in 1610. At the surface, the temperature never climbs above about -160º C (-256º F), yet it's thought that beneath the frozen epidermis there could be a liquid saltwater ocean. Were that the case, Europa would be about the best candidate for extraterrestrial life in the Solar System, albeit life in microbial form. That Europa could harbor life isn't news. That NASA is now considering landing a robot on Europa's surface is, and the agency has one or two ideas about what a robot should do when it gets there.  Read More

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