SETI Sol System Exploration Papers

Larry Klaes (
Tue, 13 Jul 1999 15:22:05 -0400


<excerpt>From: "Bruce Moomaw"

To: "Icepick Europa Mailing List"

Subject: General notices to everyone

Date: Tue, 13 Jul 1999 07:07:09 -0700

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<smaller> (1) The Space Studies Board of the National Academy of
Sciences will probaly be releasing their 120-page study, "A Scientific
Strategy for the Exploration of Europa", some time within the next two
months -- and it will pretty much serve as NASA's official guide. When
it does come out, you'll be able to read it for free over the Web (at

        (2) In the meantime, NASA's Campaign Science Working Group on
Prebiotic Chemistry in the Outer Solar System (who are officially in
charge of designing goals for Europa missions) has already released a
two-page report at the 30th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference


in which they list their very preliminary prioritized goals for the first
Europa lander.

        (3) At the 5th International Mars Science Conference, an
abstract has just been released (
) that makes me worry about the effectiveness of the Europa Orbiter's
ice-penetrating radar. Since the Mars Express mission will carry a
similar radar to try to penetrate 3 km below the Martian surface to look
for permafrost (and even subsurface liquid water), some French scientists
measured the effectiveness of such radar in the desert African country of
Djibouti, and found that -- apparently due to slightly humidified salts
in the soil -- its penetration was tremendously less than expected, only
a few meters. Since we're almost certain that Europa's ice contains
large amounts of salts, I wonder if the same thing will happen to the
Europa Orbiter. If so, it could still use its laser altimeter to settle
the question of whether Europa does indeed have a subsurface ocean; but
it couldn't tell how thick the ice was, or locate local areas where the
ice was thinner. I may try to contact Chris Chyba (the head of the
Orbiter's Science Definition Team) and ask him about this (he's
specialized in designing the radar).


<smaller> Bruce



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