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Space

Draper Labs Develops Low Cost Probe To Orbit, Land On Europa For NASA 79

MarkWhittington writes Ever since the House passed a NASA spending bill that allocated $100 million for a probe to Jupiter's moon Europa, the space agency has been attempting to find a way to do such a mission on the cheap. The trick is that the mission has to cost less than $1 billion, a tall order for anything headed to the Outer Planets. According to a Wednesday story in the Atlantic, some researchers at Draper Labs have come up with a cheap way to do a Europa orbiter and land instruments on its icy surface.

The first stage is to orbit a cubesat, a tiny, coffee can sized satellite that would contain two highly accurate accelerometers that would go into orbit around Europa and measure its gravity field. In this way the location of Europa's subsurface oceans would be mapped. Indeed it is possible that the probe might find an opening through the ice crust to the ocean, warmed it is thought by tidal forces.

The second stage is to deploy even smaller probes called chipsats, tiny devices that contain sensors, a microchip, and an antenna. Hundreds of these probes, the size of human fingernails, would float down on Europa's atmosphere to be scattered about its surface. While some might be lost, enough will land over a wide enough area to do an extensive chemical analysis of the surface of Europa, which would then be transmitted to the cubesat mothership and then beamed to Earth.
NASA

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!"
Earth

Complex Life Found Under 600 Feet of Antarctic Ice 237

Chroniton writes "NASA ice scientists have found a shrimp-like creature and a possible jellyfish 'frolicking' beneath 600 feet of solid Antarctic ice, where only microbes were expected to live. The odds of finding two complex lifeforms after drilling only an 8-inch-wide hole suggests there may be much more. And if such life is possible beneath Earth's oceans, why not elsewhere, like Europa?"

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