ESA's next stop: Jupiter’s icy moons
An artist's impression shows the JUICE spacecraft near Jupiter and one of its moons.
May 14th, 2012
10:23 AM ET

ESA's next stop: Jupiter’s icy moons

From the volatile landscape of Io, pockmarked by eons of volcanic activity, to Ganymede’s saltwater oceans sandwiched between hundreds of miles of ice and rock, Jupiter’s so-called Galilean moons are uniquely diverse and act like a miniature solar system.

“Jupiter is an archetype of gas giants,” says Werner Magnes from the Space Research Institute at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Graz, Austria. “It’s a kind of mini-solar system, which means Jupiter acts like a star in a minisystem with its moons acting like planets.”

That’s why the European Space Agency chose the distant gas giant’s icy moons as the target of its next big scientific mission. The 19-member group opted this month to send a spacecraft to explore and investigate the satellites, which are located some 500 million miles away from Earth. The plan is to launch the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, or JUICE, in 2022.

“No one has ever orbited one of these moons, which means it has never been studied in the high level of detail that JUICE will allow,” said Fabio Favata, the man responsible for planning all of the missions in ESA’s science program.

The mission will study the moons’ potential habitability and address two big questions: What are the conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life, and how does the solar system work?

Once JUICE reaches the Jovian system in 2030, the spacecraft will zip past Callisto and twice fly by Europa, measuring the thickness of their icy crusts and identifying potential landing sites for future explorations.

Europa, Callisto and Ganymede are all believed to have subsurface oceans. Ganymede in particular is the only moon in the solar system known to generate its own magnetic field, and JUICE will enter orbit around it in 2032. The craft will then continuously observe Jupiter’s atmosphere and magnetosphere and beam back data on the interaction of the Galilean moons and the gas giant.

"We won't be able to literally look into the ocean, that much is clear," Favata said. "But we will be able to do all sorts of measurements ... that allow you to really understand the worlds below the icy crust."

To make this possible, scientists from around the world are scrambling to fashion the most effective tools for gathering data remotely and relaying it back to Earth.

One such instrument is the craft's magnetometer. Designed by Magnes’ team at the Space Research Institute in Austria, it is outfitted with high-tech sensors for measuring the direction and intensity of a body’s magnetic fields via a process similar to radar.

A decision regarding which instruments will make the cut and be included in the final payload will be made this fall, Favata said. All in all, he added, a craft as large and complex as JUICE will take six to eight years to put together.

The JUICE mission was selected over two other candidates by ESA’s Space Science Advisory Committee for the next big scientific mission, according to information provided by the agency. One was a proposal for a new gravitational wave observatory, while the other was an advanced telescope for high-energy astrophysics.

"When you make such a big decision, it's hard to identify a single factor," Favata said about the reasoning behind ESA's choice of the JUICE mission. "You could call it an embarrassment of riches, because all three could have been done. All three were excellent projects."

soundoff (158 Responses)
  1. throat hurts when I swallow

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    July 26, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  2. Arelym Guereroq

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    July 11, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  3. SuffolkGuy

    You have to wonder - Our local Long Island aerospace company, Grumman, got the contract to build the LM Lunar Lander in 1962. In less than 7 years it descended to the moon and returned.

    May 14, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  4. intothemoonbeam

    I think this is great news and everything, however I can't help to be a little negative here and say why isn't this happening sooner? We went to the Moon over 40 years ago and still have sent humans to Mars or a mission to Europa to drill thru the ice and send a probe down. Space agencies around the world are tremendously underfunded. While I realize this is an ESA mission, I can't help to bring up the fact that NASA is only 0.5% of the national budget and falling (It was nearly 5% during the apollo missions). I haven't looked up the numbers for the ESA but I'm sure it is also tremendously underfunded as well.

    And next time someone says "Why are we spending money on this when we have starving people all over the world". Please. I can assure much much more money goes to world relief than to Space exploration.

    May 14, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • intothemoonbeam

      *meant to say still "haven't" sent humans to Mars......

      May 14, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  5. And how is this different?

    “No one has ever orbited one of these moons, which means it has never been studied in the high level of detail that JUICE will allow,” said Fabio Favata...

    And this spacecraft won't orbit the moons either, according to this article. So even JUICE won't get the high level of detail that JUICE would allow if it could orbit a moon instead of Jupiter.

    May 14, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  6. UnFred

    Nice pictures. Now can we bring it back to earth? I'm pretty sure the treasury department could use the gold off of it to pay some interest on the money we own china.

    May 14, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • TODGAR

      its not american.did u read the article?

      May 14, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  7. Petty Palin

    The teabaggers think this article is a hoax, just like evolution, just like global warming, just like the dinosaurs, just like the big bang, just like overpopulation, just like the moon landing. However, a mythical God living in the clouds? That's not a hoax at all.

    Future Teabagger: "Mommy why is the sky blue."

    Current Teabagger parent: "Because that's the way GAWD made it!"

    See when you are a teabagger, there is not such thing as a real scientific answer. GAWD is always the answer. And we wonder why knowledge in science is declining.

    May 14, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • HeeHaw

      What do you expect from people that believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old?

      May 14, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • !!!!!

      Just thought you would like to know, but you spelled God wrong. Oh yea, I was sitting down in my house and all of a sudden a coke can just appeared in front of my eyes!!! Then I was 100% convinced that the "BIG BANG THEORY' is true!!!

      May 14, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
      • Primewonk

        How in the world do you equate a coke can magically appearing from nothing, with a singularity starting to expand 13.7 billioon years ago?

        This statement of yours show that you have chosen to purposefully be ignorant about science.

        May 15, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • columbus

      So the next time one of you brainiaks goes on a cruise and falls off the edge, we'll see who believes in "Gawd".

      May 14, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
      • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

        I do believe that a Jewish gentleman named Christopher Columbus disproved that around 520 years ago. That is definitely within the 6,000 year time frame that the "Young Earthers" are willing to admit happened. Oh, and by the way, Jesus was swarthy skinned (olive complexion), had dark, curly hair, and dark eyes, and he didn't speak English like in the KJV either.

        May 14, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  8. D

    This (30 years + billions of dollars) is what happens when you give it to the Western world. Why don't they do this like everything else....outsource it to the Chinese through Walmart...they'll get it done in a few weeks for under a dollar!

    May 14, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  9. Wondering??

    Has anyone seen these "news stories" on yahoo or elsewhere os gigantic ships around the sun, not wure why Yahoo posts this stuff as news it makes them look ridiculous..

    May 14, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • HeeHaw

      Its true but you have to know the dates. Here is the site sdo . gsfc . nasa . gov
      youtube.com/watch?v=bQ7RaOMHb5I&feature=player_embedded

      May 14, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  10. Gabe

    Jupiter Ice Moon Explorer project is call JUICE. Are they trying to sound cool or did they think JIME sounded too juvenile??

    May 14, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  11. Genoius

    Since our fighter jets travel at mach3+ speeds, maybe we should send those on the space mission, they should reach much faster.

    May 14, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Mario

      You realize that if they traveled at Mach 3, it would take roughly 23 years to get from earth to Jupiter, right?

      May 14, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
      • GeoGuy

        Besides there's no oxygen for combustion to take place...

        May 14, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
      • Josh

        JUICE will not be getting there for, what, 20 years from now.

        May 14, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
      • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

        Gotta love the education levels demonstrated by some of the commentators on this blog! I can see that Genoius' mamma and daddy's tax money was wasted on his schoolin'.

        May 14, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Michael

      Indeed, Mach 1, (the speed of sound) in space, equals zero. Mach3 = 3 x 0 = 0. As someone else posted, in space there is no oxygen for the jet to burn, or for sound to travel in.

      May 14, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  12. ada

    spend the money on bringing together all the scientists of this world and have them create a single fly

    May 14, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Anthony

      Have them create the fly out of nothing.

      May 14, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
      • Bill Marvel

        Why all this hostility towards science? Is it because you imagine that science somehow disproves the existence of God, the Creator of all things? There are many atheists who imagine the same thing. Who is more foolish?

        May 14, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
      • Tim

        I know a lot of atheists and I don't think I know a single one who thinks that anything disproves God. But science certainly gives you less reason to believe in one.

        May 14, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
      • Bill Marvel

        Tim,
        If I had to depend on science for my belief in God I'd be in a world of trouble. Kind of like those fundamentalists who suspect that science necessarily undermines faith in God.

        May 14, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  13. Mark

    Space exploration is interesting. Although I don't believe the world is 8 Billion years old or whatever. Carbon dating on some recently deceased dogs had them dated as hundreds of thousands of years old.

    May 14, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Ed

      That's because it is in dog years.

      May 14, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
      • Genoius

        Our descendants a few million years from now who read your comment will doubt the idea of intelligent life in the 21st century.

        May 14, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • FifthApe

      Mark. You need to educate yourself. Carbon dating *can't* be used for age of Earth calculations. It has limitations up to 50,000 years. The Earth is 4.6 Billion and the Universe 13.72 Billion.

      May 14, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
      • Josh

        I thought Carbon Dating could only be used for (once) living things. The Earth itself, nor the Universe itself, is "living"; at least not in the sense of using carbon based chemistry.

        May 14, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • Tim

      It's a good think then that we don't use carbon dating as an accurate measure of the age of objects. Tell me, since you deny the age of the universe, how is it that we can see light from stars 14 billion light years away? Or do you deny that it takes light 14 billion years to travel 14 billion light years as well?

      May 14, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
      • Bill Marvel

        Tim,
        Odd isn't it that the Bible literalists always attack evolution, but almost never astronomy or physics, both of which offer far more serious challenges to a literal reading of Genesis. Could it be they just don't have the mathematics or analytical skills - or knowledge?
        By the way, it's very mistaken to assume that all, or even most believing Christians so not accept evolution. Faith is considerably more sophisticated than that.

        May 14, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  14. Jerry

    Can any scientist explain how life began? Saying it started from dust and lightning sounds odd. Where did the dust come from?

    May 14, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • FifthApe

      So God dun it..... God of the gaps. Very clever Jerry.

      May 14, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Tim

      All of the atoms in your body with exception to hydrogen and helium are born of star dust. The only mechanism in our universe for creating heavier elements is the intense heat and pressure of a star. Once it has burned up all it's fuel some larger starts explode into what is called a supernova. The heavy particles are blasted out into space to either form new nebula (star breeding grounds), planets, etc. Stars, not Jesus had to die for you to be here. As for organic life it's still being worked on. Scientists are just now becoming able to generate sythetic life from the molecules that would have been around roughly 4 billion years ago. A simple way of looking at it is like how algae apears to grow in water with only sunlight and the water itself aiding it. With the right combo of amino acids and temperature you can develop carbon based organic life by only slightly changing the RND/DNA. Given all the planets out there with livable climates and liquid water it was bound to happen somewhere. It even took our own earth a long time to go from barren and dead to lush and green.

      May 14, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Petty Palin

      Jerry must have graduated from Sarah Palin University

      May 14, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • intothemoonbeam

      Do everyone a favor Jerry and watch this.

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9D05ej8u-gU&w=560&h=315]

      May 14, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Dust

      ....and where did god come from? and where did the energy for the big bang come from? A Paradox which will never be explained.

      May 14, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
      • Chris

        Why is there something rather than nothing? The positive mass energy of matter is exactly counterbalanced by the negative gravitational potential. +1-1=0 Energy was not created out of nothing, it has just been redistributed.

        May 14, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
      • Bill Marvel

        Dust,
        Not a question that science, by definition, is equipped to answer.

        May 14, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
      • Bill Marvel

        "The positive mass energy of matter is exactly counterbalanced by the negative gravitational potential. +1-1=0 Energy was not created out of nothing, it has just been redistributed."
        Yes, yes, that's the mathematics, all right.
        Who created the mathematics? Or is the mathematics a priori? If a priori, how does that essentially differ from faith, though faith of a secular kind? Didn't Wittgenstein demonstrate that mathematics is not a closed system, but must reach outside itself if its proofs are to be considered valid?

        May 14, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  15. Rick

    The earth is really 85 trillion years old. If we make it old enough anything is possible. That is why scientists believe the earth is that old. It's because they don't have facts.

    May 14, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Michael500ca

      They do have the facts. It is called radiometric dating. The Earth is 4.5 billion years old. Have you ever heard of Google?

      May 14, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
      • Oakspar

        Radiometric dating is based on the assumption that radiation decay is (and has always been) a stable process. In a scientific system where everything is relative, this cannot be taken to be objectively true.

        So, the correct statement is that if (A) radioactive decay is constant then (B) it is likely that the world is 4.5 billion years old.

        May 14, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  16. Vanilla lice

    There is absolutely no sunlight under the ice!! It's pitch black! We have the same conditions here, deep in our oceans. The only life that would be there, would be bacteria and other worthless microorganisms. We have plenty enough here on Earth!! Spend the money to fight famine, cancer, or something else worth a cause!

    Greece is going to need another bailout!! :P haha!

    May 14, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Dan I

      Ever had a CAT scan? NASA says you're welcome. Ever heard of hydroponics? The ability to grow food in space? The amount of spinoff technology NASA creates is incredible.

      Not to mention that for ever $1 NASA spends it actually gets back about $2, that number occasionally goes as high as $14. In other words, NASA actually MAKES MONEY for the federal government.

      Yet their funding remains a measly .5% of the budget (That's POINT FIVE, not FIVE).

      May 14, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
      • Vanilla lice

        It's the ESA not NASA!

        Anywho, It's a waste of resources performing research millions of miles away, when it could be done here :P Why waste your time!

        May 14, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • druvas

      Your joke has serious implications. Suppose we do send a spacecraft there to detect and bring back micro-organisms? It's doubtful humans would have any immunities to dangerous ones... Our entire race could go the way of the natives in the Americas...

      May 14, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
      • Vanilla lice

        I would think research on Mars to colonize it, would be much more beneficial. Don't think we'll get anything from these moons.

        Maybe Uranus has microorganisms. hehe. Just kidding :)

        May 14, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
      • Tim

        Some of those moons are more habitable than Mars. Europa has a liquid water ocean buried underneath ice. I'm sure we could agree that in the relatively near future we will need more efficient ways of traveling around the solar system. The information we gather about composition, topography, and of course all the indirect things we discover help us in that goal. Not too mention all the scientific and technological breakthroughs we see directly related to space exploration.

        May 14, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Joe

      Worthless microorganisms? Ask your colon how worthless they are next time you eat a meal. Do you have any idea how important these seemingly insignificant critters are to the entire planet? Just because you can't see something doesn't mean that we can do without it!

      May 14, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  17. jj

    But... I don't have 32 years to wait. Can't we get it up there more quickly? Maybe a bold politician could promise it in the next 4 years? They make things move quickly, and would never go back on their promises.
    Where's President Moon when we need him!!!

    May 14, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  18. David Bowman

    All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there.

    May 14, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Kong

      Very Niice!!

      May 14, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  19. Grumpster

    There is one way to get all this done sooner, but nobody seems to want to bring it up. That is...one way manned missions. Look....peole who hopped on boats in the 1300-1400's were pretty much keeping in mind their journey could or would mean they'd never come back. There are plenty of people ready and willing to sign up for this type of mission, but our PC crazy politicians won't let this happen. Send one person there or a team....that would further science more in one mission than 100 unmanned missions. Many would take this mission proudly and without reservations. We've all got to die sometime....why not make it worth doing?

    May 14, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • EvolveNow

      Single man one-way mission? You first!

      May 14, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
      • Rick

        I would go in a heartbeat!!

        May 14, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Tanner

      Good point

      May 14, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • columbus

      Wow! A suicide mission, that would make great reality TV.

      May 14, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  20. Fearless Freep

    No more Rick Santorum jokes.

    May 14, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  21. Larry L

    As the Earth undergoes significant climate change and the resulting economic, sociological and political turmoil, these sorts of missions will become increasingly challenging. Here in the U.S., where about 20% of the population now believes the Earth to be less than 6000 years old, our ability to gain public support for pure science is dwindling. I fear we'll pass the point of no return – except return to the Dark Ages. For me this not so much of a problem, but my grandkids may not enjoy a world where long-range scientific inquiry is even slightly possible. As religious radicals rant about the "end being near" they may be correct. Ironically, their own ignorance may be the catylist for that change.

    May 14, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Les

      Agreed. I have also anticipated this scenario.

      May 14, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • specter

      god killed science?

      May 14, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Charles B

      Perceptive points, Larry. One can argue that apocalyptic prediction by those caught up in myth and religion does become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If enough people truly believe the end is near, they will make it happen simply to save face. Very disturbing.

      May 14, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Golden Record

      You must not follow the news very closely.. Good theory though.

      news.yahoo.com/rise-atheism-america-110700315.html

      May 14, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • chris

      Larry, I partially disagree with you. The % of Americans believing the Earth is 6000 years old is declining. The population at large is becoming more educated. The problem is the % of Americans disconnected by science is increasing and the economy is shrinking. What people see is they have less money to spend and they are not getting their bang for the buck with satellite missions. Never the less, the outcome is the same and is sad.

      May 14, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
      • TallinOK

        But, don't forget, we are graduating kids from high school in the US who can't even tell you where Ohio is on a map. Except of course, Ohioans.

        May 14, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
      • ada

        can this money not be better spent by utilising the talent and intellect of all of mankind to create a single fly

        May 14, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
      • intothemoonbeam

        "The % of Americans believing the Earth is 6000 years old is declining." Try telling the teabaggers this.

        May 14, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Grumpster

      Larry...I think you're right. Let the teabaggers in and they'll surely dismantle this, just as the GOP extremists have dismantled the educational system. We'll be surfs and lords again living amongst robber barron companies with no morals and absolute control of the wealth and information. I'd be leery of a teabagger even working on a project like this in fear they'd sabotage it to perpetuate the 6000 year old earth hypothesis.

      May 14, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Paul

      As a Christian, it pains me to agree with you. Too many people confuse "religion" (which is mostly doctrine and dogma) with God and the imperative of understanding our relation to God. I absolutely respect that many people neither beieve in nor understand God. In reality there need be no great divide between science and religion. Albert Einstein being one great example of that. I do note however that many secular types also believe the end is near, be it due to global warming or the Mayan calender.

      May 14, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
      • Bill Marvel

        Mayan calendar hysteria now officially bunkum. Archaeologists recently uncovered another Mayan calendar that carries on the date calculations for millions for several millenia beyond 2012. So presumably we're back to the Donner Party time capsule revelation (2016) or the John Denton Two Covenants calculation (2046).

        May 14, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  22. carlyjanewg

    http://www.Hear-The-Truth.com

    May 14, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  23. Holly

    If the probe will start orbiting in 2032, that would mean that we're at least 30 years out from landing a probe on Europa to explore it's ocean. That's disappointing but this could be the "Pre-Mission" for that.

    May 14, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Hugo

      Holly, I don't know where you get 30 years from. Showing your math would help. Example.

      Premise: we need 10 years for development of the Europa Lander.
      Development Time + ( JUICE arrival – launch date) = 10 + (2032-2012) = 30.

      Then someone could point out that the launch date isn't in 2012 but in 2022.

      Or perhaps you mean 20 years are needed to develop the lander. But a launch date in 2032 isn't the same as one in 2022. While we can wait for the Earth to get closest to Jupiter, planners often use gravity of Venus and/or Mars to slingshot ships on their way.

      In any event, if it takes 10 years to develop the lander, it could also launch in 2022 and get there in 2032. That's 20 years from now now 30.

      Again, without seeing your math, we can't tell what you mean. (Your grade school teachers were RIGHT after all!)

      May 14, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
      • Eric

        Reading Holly's other posts, I think she is far more intelligent than you.

        May 14, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  24. Alex

    It's a shame it still takes them so long to get these things off the ground. I'll be a pensioner before the thing arrives at Jupiter and I don't expect to live long enough to ever see us on the moon again. I think one key to us ever properly exploring space (with humans or otherwise) is we need to shrink the timeframe, at least in terms of getting the probes prepared and launched (can't do much about the travel time).

    May 14, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • columbus

      Unfortunately it's about resources, money, people, materials, if you think we should be redirecting our resources to science then you should be engaged in our political process and elect politicians friendly to science programs.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
      • Rick

        I agree, and i do..
        But if we could just get the world to think differently- first off, stop with the white , black, asian, or koren, russian , american and start thinking like we are all Earthlings or Human beings and stop with the segration and work toward a common goal, these things would be possible!
        It is something the entire world could get behind and work as one toward...it could unite us!!

        its to bad that there is more worry over money then long term survival of the human race.

        May 14, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
      • Hugo

        Another place to direct resources is to educate the public on the purpose of such research. The public elects the politicians.

        Perhaps a simpler goal would be to start up something like the defunct NSF SSTP program in order to get young people more involved in science. It's not enough, but it's something.

        I was an SSTP student.

        May 14, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  25. columbus

    Why do people think that we should be at the level of technology depicted in science fiction movies? Those fictional stories are the inspiration and imagination of what we might do technologically, and in some instances we have already leaped beyond. How about Captain Kirk's communicator? I think it's great to be hungry for more progress, but think about the timeframe for flight, it was about 100 years from the Wright brothers to the state of aircraft today. Add to that, we were trying to master machinery within our own environment. Space exploration is orders of magnitude more complicated, it is highly technical, infinitely more risky. So how soon should we be colonizing planets? As much as there is glamour in the movies of starting a colony on Mars, Mars will no doubt never be completely habitable because it has no magnetic field to protect humans from lethal radiation. Should we pursue manned exploration, of course, the befits of knowledge will always outweigh the risks. But it's going to take whatever time it takes.

    May 14, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Rick

      I think it is very important to get the space program moving toward finding a planet that we can teraform or live on , and get humans there, if an astaroid or some other earth ending event, it would be the end of the human race, why put all your eggs in one basket, we need to colonize and get some peeps off this planet, before we nuke it or something else happens. We should put more into the space program.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
      • columbus

        Unfortunately Rick, if we don't get off this rock before the end comes, then fate was just not on our side.

        May 14, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
      • druvas

        Meh, the idea of sustained human space flight is all but pure fantasy at this point, let alone getting to a habitable (assuming we actually find one) world. Radiation will kill any astronauts before they even reach Mars. If anyone survived that trip, they'd be too weak from loss of bone density to be of any use. Faster-than-light travel is impossible. End of story. The fastest manned space vehicle was the Apollo 10 lander on its return trip which hit 24,790 mph relative to the Earth. That was in 1969. Nothing since has topped it. The speed of light is 700,000,000 mph. We have only achieved 1/28,237 of the speed of light. Ignoring that we would need to figure out how to overcome the exponential increase in mass problem when approaching "light speed", how does anyone think it is even remotely possible to accomplish anything meaningful in space (such as populating other habitable worlds)?

        We can fantasize about warp bubbles until we are blue in the face, but the amount of energy required to make one is so far out of the reach of the human race at this point, that we'd be far better off sending long term robotic missions to scout out our own solar system, keep improving our telescopes, and develop anti-asteroid defenses. I would love for Earth to mimic Star Trek, but 'it ain't gonna happen'. Sorry to pee in everyone's Wheaties.

        May 14, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
      • Genoius

        @Rick: Just imagine, if the dinosaurs had the same thought process as you 65 million years ago, and a few had migrated to one of the outer planets. Astronomers and scientists of our day would then "find" life on "other" planets. The initial unmanned probes sent by humans would be gobbled up by the big dinosaurs and it would all be so funny.

        May 14, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
      • H. B.

        You're right. And Stephen Hawking, the great physicist, strongly supports colonization, for the same reason you gave – that humanity is too stupid to avoid wiping itself out. If we had colonies in the solar system, and/or mega-starships with self contained biosystems that could leave Earth and travel for centuries at will, at least those people might survive what we're going to do to ourselves one day. It's not a matter of whether, but of when and how, and by whom.

        It might buck you up to know that Venus can be made relatively habitable in only a few years. It's a hellish world at this moment – the atmosphere alone would crush you and suffocate you, and the surface is hotter than a kiln. Not exactly pastoral bliss. The fun part is that it CAN be fixed.

        See if the library has a book called "The Next Ten Thousand Years." It has a whole chapter dedicated to how Venus could be made habitable by injecting hardy blue-green algae into its atmosphere. They would gobble up that vast amount of CO2, ending the greenhouse effect. Then water trapped in the atmosphere would rain down and cool the surface. It was estimated that this would take something under 5 years. It wouldn't yet be truly habitable at that point, but it might be possible to land on it and explore its possibilities. It has a revolution problem that gives it extremely long days and nights, and there would be other problems, but none seem insurmountable.

        I'll admit, though, that I'm not up on the latest regarding this possibility, but you might want to check it out.

        May 14, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  26. LB

    Notice, this is being done by the European Space Agency, not NASA. Way to go USA.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • LuisWu

      The US is doing fine. Currently there are over 100 missions either in progress or being built.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Holly

      Ummmmm, what?!?! Your comment is extremely ignorant. I work for the ESA and I'm on the NASA "New Horizon's" team, so I can personally tell you that we work hand in hand with NASA and JPL.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
      • Marcus Hill

        I am glad to hear that Holly. It's not so much a space 'race' anymore and I think that is a good thing.

        May 14, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
      • Billy

        Go Holly Go! Keep up the good work, NASA / JPL!

        May 14, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • really

      Yeah...we're not first in ANYTHING anymore!

      May 14, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
      • Holly

        Why are you Americans obsessed with always doing everything first? I don't get it. BTW, I hate to be the one to inform you of this, cause you obviously haven't payed attention to NASA's previous missions to Jupiter, but you guys were "first" there decades ago. Ever heard of Pioneer 10 and 11 in 1975? Perhaps Voyager 1 and 2 in 1978? How about Ulysses in 1992? What about Galileo in 1993 and Cassini in 2000? New Horizons in 2004? And let's not forget Juno in 2016. Feel like an !d!ot yet? Well, you should.

        May 14, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
      • really

        Holly, I was talking about the fact that we used to score first in math and science. We USED to be first in space exploration (thanks for the history lesson, but I'm aware of our PAST accomplishments...you can add the moth-balled space shuttle to that list) We USED to do a lot of things, but, now, our only interest seems to be blowing things up and making money. No science and adventure left.....(ok?)

        May 14, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
      • Mike

        US first in science and math? When was this supposed to be? Maybe bible reading...

        May 14, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  27. JoeProfet

    It will take an enormous amount of energy to propel a spacecraft to these locations as well as to sustain human life support systems for the duration. Quite a bit more science needs to be uncovered before we can venture out as the article suggests. Certainly by the time they wish to launch, our economy will have all but collapsed and therefore we'll be left staring at the stars as usual!!

    May 14, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • MaggieJS

      Uh, you do understand this is to be an unmanned mission?

      May 14, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  28. LuisWu

    Europa is the moon that scientists think has the best chance of finding life in the oceans below the thick icy crust. Proposals have been made to drill down through miles of ice and check out the ocean. But that wouldn't really be necessary to find out if there's life down there. There are huge cracks in the surface of Europa that are stained from organic material that's been upwelling from them. All they need to do is land a probe in the darkened material near one of these cracks and analyze it. If microscopic life exists in the subsurface ocean, the probe should be able to find samples that have come up from below when the upwelling occurred. This would be much simpler and cheaper than drilling through miles of ice.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • columbus

      But if it's not microscopic, a giant worm might eat the probe!

      May 14, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Duck Duck Duck - GOOSE

      The Europans are not going to be pleased.

      May 14, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
      • Bill Marvel

        First, the Europans have t get their house in order. No more loans, no more bailouts. Austerity and lower prices for tourists. Otherwise, nobody's going to visit them, much less colonize their stupid planet.

        May 14, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
      • Ian

        Moon, Bill. Europa is a moon.

        May 14, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
      • Bill Marvel

        Really, a moon? I Thought Europa was a continent.

        May 14, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  29. Hal

    "What are you doing, Dave?"

    May 14, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • davetharave

      " I'm going to rip your guts out, Hal "

      May 14, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
      • irunner

        I can feel it... Dave

        May 14, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  30. Bilbo

    There's nothing like a poorly worded joke to prove you're an idiot.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  31. Mike

    ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS—EXCEPT EUROPA. ATTEMPT NO LANDINGS THERE.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • MikeyD74

      awesome, i was thinking the same thing lol. Loved that movie.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  32. Theory&Practice

    In theory, once humanity achieves a stable colony outside of our own solar system, or even on another planet within our solar system, we will be far more difficult to wipe out. Whether or not we should leave is therefore debatable.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • really

      The virus is spreading.....

      May 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  33. Sasha

    its not getting there for another 18 years. Not going to be circling said moons until 20 years from now. Why the F are they doing a story about it now? Think anyone is going to remember this article in 20 years?

    May 14, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • PHinMiami

      Then just let the 'thinking' to the Scientists. Rest your little brain.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
      • tjp44

        wow.........a registered voter? Scary

        May 14, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • L.A.

      I will. And I will remember your comment as well.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Duck Duck Duck - GOOSE

      Sasha :

      a) Republican
      b) Christian
      c) Both .

      I vote both.

      May 14, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  34. M

    That gravitational wave observatory sounds pretty amazing too!

    May 14, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  35. Ernie Zippreplat

    This is new, a space launch 10 years down the line....give me a freaking break!

    May 14, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • really

      It takes time to fund, plan, and build.....it's not Lego's!

      May 14, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  36. davidstl

    What they need to do here is determine if these gas giants produce seasonal effects as does our orbit around the sun. Since seasonal changes are beneficial to life's evolution, then this discovery will help us to understand that all of those gas giants that we are discovering in the universe orbiting in their star's habitable zone likely have moons that in turn orbit these gas giants and produce life. This would end the disappointment we all feel when science discovers yet another seemingly wasted gas giant in the habitable zone.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • really

      Exactly what I was thinking......

      May 14, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  37. Cheetahe

    To set up human colonies in space and on our near planets we need a collective commitment that presently is not there. NASA's budget is retreading in real dollars and that budget includes all kind of activities not related to space exploration. As a nation we get what we pay for from this Agency. We as a nation are spending 17 billion on NASA, 62 billion on foreign aid, and 100 billion on foreign wars. those are the national priorities at this time.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  38. LIP

    Launch in 2022, 10 years from now and go into orbit in 2030, 8 years after the launch. Of course we can only speculate what technology will be like in 2022, but with obsolution rapidly outpacing progress (4-6 months and it is obsolete), will there be anything still working on Earth that will be able to work with what we send up, after 8 long years?

    May 14, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Jim

      We're still talking to the Voyager probes, built on late 1960's and early 1970's tech. I recently had the privilege to visit the Goldstone Deep Space Network complex where communications with these spacecraft take place.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  39. Lee S

    I love space articles. Nothing about people getting blown up, killed, or shot at. Science is and always will be the futue for humanity.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • davetharave

      Spacecraft don't need religion.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
      • really

        But, sadly, they are victim to politics....

        May 14, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  40. Biker Swede

    I find this exciting. With all the bad news out there it is wonderful to read about what is going on in space exploration. I would love to see a manned exploration of Mars within my life time. This would take to cooperation of both NASA and ESA and will of the people to see this happen. Sure it will cost money but the benefits will outway the cost. Look at the benefits from the Race for the Moon in the 1960's.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  41. Patrish

    I love The Universe series and find it amazing what is out there and how little we know. The more probes and data we collect, they better we will know our solar system before we send a manned ship out farther.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Mike

      unfortunately, we humans just don't know what we don't know.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  42. Jim

    Will this craft be carefully sterilized prior to launch? The Galileo probe was deliberately crashed into Jupiter to prevent the possibility that it could contaminate one of the Galilean moons.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  43. p-niiice

    I'm glad that somewhere in the world, we're still thinking big about space and trying to move knowledge along. We need to pull resources from elsewhere and fund NASA.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • columbus

      I don't know, there is a US built New Horizons probe heading to Pluto, another Jovian probe, Juno, and an SUV sized rover named Curiosity that's heading to Mars. I'd say that's pretty big thinking.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  44. Rick

    its time we build a spaceship that can be piloted by men , and visit these planets and objects and move around space as needed. WE NEED THE ENTERPRISE!! a real one, big enough to be its own biological system, where familys can live, have children and they can be trained to pilot and work on board for generations, we need to BOLDLY explore and not just send probe after probe, use all that money for a ship that we can send where we want, and ask for volunteers and explorers.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Rich

      Yessiree, space cadets! And you can get your decoder ring if you send in enough boxtops.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:18 am |
      • Rick

        lol

        May 14, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Peteyroo

      There is absolutely no need to send humans. It costs too much when the money could be spent more efficiently on unmanned space probes.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:34 am |
      • CA Liberal

        Sending humans is the whole point of space exploration. Probes are good for getting information and developing the technology, but we haven't been there until a human goes there.

        May 14, 2012 at 11:48 am |
      • Drew

        Why go to the Grand Canyon when you can just look at the pictures? Why go to the beach when you can see it on TV? Why visit Angel Falls when you can go take a shower to get wet? Get the point?

        May 14, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
      • Extremophil

        Why get killed when you don't have to? Get the point?

        May 14, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
      • LuisWu

        Exactly. For the price of a manned mission to Mars, you could build a thousand robotic probes to anywhere and everywhere in the solar system.

        May 14, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • bspurloc

      presently there is no way to protect a human from gamma rays etc etc etc you know the dangerous things The Earths gravity repels? those things that if they pass through u mangle your cells.... those things metal can not stop... them....

      May 14, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
      • LuisWu

        The Earth's gravity doesn't repel anything. It's magnetic field repels charged particles and the ozone stops some as well but gravity only sucks things in, it doesn't repel.

        May 14, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
      • T.A. Martin

        I don't know where you learned your science, but a primer:
        Alpha rays – blocked by a sheet of paper or your skin; Beta rays – blocked by a sheet of metal; Gamma rays – blocked by several inches of dense material (stone, metal, et.al) The magnetoshere has no effect on Alpha or Gamma rays because niether are electrically charged.

        May 14, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • davetharave

      I'll go !

      May 14, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  45. Prescott

    When I think of the optimism of the 60's regarding space exploration and discovery; when I think of the predictions of movies such as "2001," and when I know how rapidly our technology was advancing, it depresses me that only now are we planning a few programs to begin ten years in the future, and which will do so little.

    I'm happy we are doing anything at all, but if you had asked any of us back when I was in school what we would be doing in 2012, none of us would have guessed that we would still be stuck on this ball of dirt with all of its pitiful, political problems.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • SilentBoy741

      Yes, but now the world has achieved the really, really important goals, like iPods and Angry Birds. No need to look up to the stars anymore, civilization has advanced enough.

      May 14, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  46. rtbrno65

    Ice, Ice, Baby!

    May 14, 2012 at 11:03 am |

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