School: CollËge des Saints-Coeurs-Sioufi
Grade level: 11
Teacher: Colette Krause
"On July 25 of 2018, the world woke up to the news of water being found on Mars. However the water surface discovered was as large as an average lake. So what if you were to be told that water, in quantities as massive as twice the amount of all of Earth’s oceans combined, rely on Europa —Jupiter’s moon— discovered by Galileo Galilei, at a distance approximately 2.8 times further than Mars’?
These waters are present under the forms of icy layers that are up to 15 to 25 kilometers thick covering the surface of the moon in question, but also under liquid form, ranging at depths of 60 to 150 kilometers deep, on which float the ice shell.
Having mentioned the former facts, despite being uniquely intriguing, a space exploration program aimed at Europa would be fairly realistic: Jupiter’s moon is only 623 million kilometers distant from Earth, compared to Enceladus (1.272 billion kilometers) or Titan (1.4 billion kilometers), which explains the various missions planed by NASA to explore and even land on the satellite: Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11, Voyager 1, Voyager 2, Galileo Spacecraft and the upcoming Europa Clipper, that is to launch in 2023 and solely powered by solar panels, dedicated to exploring the satellite. Furthermore, the ESA is developing the JUICE mission (Jupiter Icy moons Explorer) devoted to the discovery of water in the Jovian system.
These programs are fueled by two factors: the first being the potential water source that Europa could represent, which could be a solution for the water crisis striking earth, as only 2.5% of our planet’s water is drinkable and just 1% is easily accessible.
The second being a quest to finding extraterrestrial life forms which has sparked the most interest in scientists: the existence of life could be broken down into three major parts: the presence of water, adequate chemical conditions, and an energy source. Europa seems to have two of the former conditions. However, the evidence of energy sources, such as volcanoes, has yet failed to be found on Europa. So finding these sources is the main goal of future space explorations. That being said, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson explained, during an interview with “Big Think”, how Europa is kept worm despite being far from the sun, in other words, how could energy be present on Europa: he introduced the concept of tidal forces applied by Jupiter on Europa, he said: “as Europa orbits Jupiter, its shape changes […] a consequence of this [alteration] would be pumping energy into the satellite”. These forces could be the energy source maintaining life on Europa.
The only way to find out is to keep exploring."