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Inside the Mission To Europa ( 106

An anonymous reader writes: Ars Technica details the political and engineering battles being waged to make it possible for NASA to land a probe on Jupiter's moon Europa. They have new information about mission plans; it sounds ambitious, to say the least. "First, the bad news. Adding a lander to the Clipper will require additional technical work and necessitate a launch delay until late 2023. At that time, the massive Space Launch System rocket NASA is developing could deliver it to Jupiter in 4.6 years. Once there, the lander would separate from the Clipper, parking in a low-radiation orbit.

The Clipper would then proceed to reconnoiter Europa, diving into the harsh radiation environment to observe the moon and then zipping back out into cleaner space to relay its data back to Earth. Over a three-year period, the Clipper would image 95 percent of the world at about 50 meters per pixel and three percent at a very high resolution of 0.5 meters per pixel. With this data, scientists could find a suitable landing site. ...The JPL engineers have concluded the best way to deliver the lander to Europa's jagged surface is by way of a sky crane mechanism, like the one successfully used in the last stage of Curiosity's descent to the surface of Mars. With four steerable engines and an autonomous system to avoid hazards, the lander would be lowered to the moon's surface by an umbilical cord."


NASA May Send Landers To Europa In 2020 156

wisebabo writes "So here's a proposal by NASA to send landers to Europa to look for life. They are sending two landers because of the risks in landing on Europa. They got that right! First is the 500 million mile distance from the Sun, which will probably necessitate RTGs (Juno uses solar panels, but they are huge) and will cause at least an hour of lag time for communications. Then there is the intense gravitational field of Jupiter, which will require a lot of fuel to get into Jovian and then Europan orbit. (It's equivalent to traveling amongst the inner planets!) The radiation in space around Jupiter is tremendous, so the spacecraft may need to be 'armored' like Juno. Landing on Europa is going to be crazy; there aren't any hi-res maps of the landing areas (unlike Mars) and even if there were, the geography of Europa might change due to the shifting ice. Since there is no atmosphere, it'll be rockets down all the way; very expensive in terms of fuel — like landing on the Moon. Finally, who knows what the surface is like; is it a powder, rock hard, crumbly or slippery? In a couple respects, looking for life on Titan (where we've already landed one simple probe) would be a lot easier: dense atmosphere, no radiation, radar mapped from space, knowledge of surface). If only we could do both!"

Europa Selected As Target of Next Flagship Mission 168

volcanopele writes "NASA and the European Space Agency announced today that they have selected the Europa/Jupiter System Mission as the next large mission to the outer solar system. For the last year, the Europa mission has been in competition with a proposal to send a mission to Saturn's moon Titan, as reported on Slashdot earlier. The Europa Mission includes two orbiters: one developed by NASA to orbit the icy moon Europa and another developed by ESA to orbit the solar system's largest moon, Ganymede. Both orbiters would spend up to 2.5 years in orbit around Jupiter before settling into orbit around their respective targets, studying Jupiter's satellites, rings, and of course the planet itself. The mission is scheduled to launch in 2020 and arrive at Jupiter in 2025 and 2026."

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