Studies of Europa can benefit in several ways from cooperative interactions between NASA and other federal agencies. For example, the National Science Foundation (NSF), through its Office of Polar Programs, funds a broad variety of research activities in the Antarctic and other icy terrestrial regions; much of the work relating to ice cores and glaciers has clear importance for planning studies of Europa. Studies of Lake Vostok, mentioned in Chapter 4, are an example of research in which close cooperation between NASA and NSF is critical. Scientific activity in the Antarctic is governed under the terms of the Antarctic Treaty, which guarantees cooperation and unrestricted scientific access that in turn requires coordination through various national agencies and with international bodies (e.g., the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research). Because NSF is tasked with coordinating all U.S. Antarctic research activities, access by NASA must be through interagency cooperation. In turn, NASA can provide technologies useful to NSF-funded scientists, so mutually beneficial cooperative activities can occur.
The NSF also supports studies of life in extreme environments, most recently through its Life in Extreme Environments (LExEn) program. These studies extend and complement work in exobiology and astrobiology funded by NASA. Cooperation between the two agencies may enable more rapid progress and reduce overlap in exobiological research.
Another important area of potential interagency cooperation is the development and testing of electronic and optical components hardened to survive the intense europan radiation environment. Although NASA and DOD requirements once drove innovations in electronics, commercial users have recently become dominant. As a result, radiation-resistant hardware is not being developed as extensively as it once was, and the development of radiation-hardened electronic components has become prohibitively expensive. Thus locating off-the-sheet electronic and optical components suitable for spacecraft use requires extensive searching, and extensive testing must be done to prove their capabilities.
Finding such components, however, does not necessarily result in identifying a steady source of suitable components, because variations across manufacturing lots may lead to significant differences in the radiation tolerance of a given component, or subcomponents may come from different suppliers. Moreover, most companies are not forthcoming about uniformity in manufacturing and do not trace from which lot a particular set of units came, or whether procedures or suppliers have changed. Thus, testing of the actual flight components is often necessary. Further, miniaturization of electronic components has led to a higher degree of catastrophic failures, as opposed to the mere inconvenience of transient losses of information or operations.
Agencies besides NASA that would benefit from access to a long-term, stable supply of radiation-hardened components include the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy, which need flight components that can survive exposure to high levels of radiation. Similarly, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will need to pay greater attention to radiation hardening as its increasing role in the monitoring of space weather (i.e., disturbances in the solar-terrestrial environment) will require the deployment of operational monitoring satellites beyond geosynchronous orbits. Moreover, civilian users, such as the communications-satellite industry, may require radiation-hardened components for communications satellites that may be placed at altitudes within Earth's radiation belts. A cooperative program to provide better sources for radiation-hardened electrical and optical components could offer broad benefits. The December 1998 announcement that NASA and other government agencies will have access to a radiation-hardened version of the Pentium processor, thanks to an agreement between Intel Corporation and the Department of Energy, is a useful beginning.
1. L.B. Hall, "Foundations of Planetary Quarantine," Planetary Quarantine: Principles, Methods, and Problems, L.B. Hall, ed., Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, London, 1971, page 5.
2. G.B. Phillips, "Back Contamination," Planetary Quarantine: Principles, Methods, and Problems, L.B. Hall, ed., Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, London, 1971, page 121.
3. Space Studies Board, National Research Council, Biological Contamination of Mars: Issues and Recommendations, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1992, page 14.
4. A.G. Haley, Space Law and Government, Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1963, page 282.