Out of the 79 known moons of Jupiter, Europa is one of them, and space researchers have taken great interest in it. Scientists believe that the unique position of this moon could help life survive on it, but mostly below the surface. But could Humans possibly survive on Europa?
In the January of 1610, famous Italian Astronomer, Galileo Galilei, with his own designed telescope discovered the four moons of Jupiter. Io, Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa. Europa is the smallest of them.
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Coming back to the topic of sustenance of human life on Europa, Humans would first have to reach the moon which would take around 2.7 years if launched on the most powerful rocket also known as the SLS, but a more realistic time period with currently active launch vehicles like the Delta 4 heavy or the falcon heavy would take about 6 to 7 years.
Let’s say that we reach Europa. Then what? The surface keeps getting bombarded with harmful radiation which makes life on the surface impossible.
Modern imagery of the moon with the help of telescopes on earth and in its orbits, and satellites Voyager 1,2 and Galileo spacecraft have confirmed the presence of ice on the surface. The gathered data from all the studies have provided evidence that below the icy crust there may be a huge ocean of water in liquid form. How did scientists come to this conclusion?
If you see an image of Europa, you’d find the surface has almost no craters from a meteorite impact. Scientists believe that the gravity and energy of Jupiter influence this icy crust. The icy crust moves up and down creating compression and expansion on the layers below. This creates heat and the heated sludgy ice then rises above and replaces the surface. This mechanism erases any craters that might have formed due to meteorites. This mechanism also throws light on the possibility of having a deep ocean of liquid water below the crust. The radiations might not be able to pierce the thick icy crust and therefore life just might survive here.
So, the first thing that humans would have to do after landing on the surface would be to immediately make their way under the crust.
Humans would require water to survive and it is present in abundance. Now Humans can both shield themselves from the radiation and use the water. What about oxygen? Special spectroscopes on earth have led to the discovery that Europa has a very thin atmosphere that is majorly composed of oxygen. The harmful radiations from Jupiter split the water molecule from ice to form hydrogen and oxygen. Thus, Humans would have no problem acquiring oxygen to breathe.
Beneath the crust, Humans are protected from radiation, have a huge ocean of drinkable water and there is also a huge source of oxygen. Does that mean, that after the earth becomes inhabitable, Europa is the next destination for mankind? Well, not actually. The size of Europa is just a tad smaller than our own moon, which means the gravity is too less. Space research has found that prolonged stay in low gravity can lead to low bone density, low immunity, and a host of other medical complications. To survive, food is also an essential commodity. The lack of cultivation ground on the planet would probably make human habitation not feasible. But who knows what future technology holds for us?
NASA is planning a space mission to Europa in the year 2024. Europa clipper, the name of the mission, is designed to get scientists on earth to get a closer look at the moon and measure the thickness of the icy crust, and confirm the presence of the much-anticipated ocean of liquid water.