Earth-based Studies, Technology Development, and Other Issues

Much additional laboratory and theoretical work, together with field studies and associated technical developments, is required in a program designed to pursue the exploration of Europa. As a result, COMPLEX recommends that:

  • A vigorous program of laboratory measurements and supporting theoretical analyses be carried out, to encompass the nature of materials at temperatures, pressures, and irradiation conditions likely to be found on Europa.

  • NASA support a program of theoretical analysis of the geophysical and geochemical environment at Europa, including the nature of the interior, surface, atmosphere, and magnetospheric interactions.

  • New large telescopes and instrumentation that are being developed incorporate, from the beginning of the design stages, the ability to observe relatively bright targets moving with respect to the background stars, and that these capabilities be implemented in a timely manner. For new ground-and space-based facilities, a non-sidereal tracking capability with an accuracy analogous to that of the Hubble Space Telescope would be appropriate.

  • Low-mass, radiation-hardened instruments be developed for use on orbiting and surface spacecraft.

  • Devices that can penetrate through any surface ice and explore the subsurface ice and possible liquid water ocean on Europa be developed, on a schedule that will allow them to be launched on possible spacecraft missions a decade from now.

  • Appropriate diagnostic remote tests and instrumentation for determining the physical and chemical properties of a sub-ice ocean and for detecting the presence or potential for life be developed.

  • NASA continue its collaborative efforts with other government agencies to explore sub-ice freshwater lakes (such as Antarctica's Lake Vostok) and sub-ice-shelf ocean environments as a means of understanding scientific, technological, and operational issues associated with the exploration of isolated environments.

  • Peer review be used to select Earth-analog programs and investigators to ensure a significant and appropriate level of participation by all of the relevant scientific communities.

  • NASA, to avoid "reinventing the wheel," should look to other federal agencies to deal with some of the scientific and technological issues and develop mechanisms for cooperating with governments of other countries in exploring Earth analogs.

  • Appropriate planetary protection measures be determined and implemented on all relevant spacecraft missions.*


1. Space Studies Board, National Research Council, An Integrated Strategy for the Planetary Sciences: 1995-2010, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1994, pages 8 and 191.


Appropriate planetary protection measures are currently being determined by the Space Studies Board Task Group on the Forward Contamination of Europa.

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