…with some science!
First off, hello new followers! Thanks for checking me out solely on Playfully Seductive’s recommendation. I’ll try my best not to let you and her down. She’s truly the best—and that was one of the nicest compliments anyone’s ever given me. :)
Okay, on to the science!
I read this the other day about Europa, the moon of Jupiter:
In short, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are planning a mission to put landers on Europa in about 10-20 years. Ever since I took a survey astronomy class in college, I’ve kept a close lookout for anything scientific related to Europa.
Why is that? Because Europa has a gigantic liquid WATER OCEAN under it’s icy shell. As far as I know/remember, it’s the only place outside of Earth that we know of that currently has liquid water anywhere on it. We already know that Mars used to ages ago, but that’s of course all gone now. Europa, on the other hand, is covered in it.
From a life/biological point of view, this means that Europa, quite simply put, is the most likely place we know of in the entire universe where extraterrestrial life (as in the scientific term; life—most likely bacteria—that is not on Earth) might actually exist. Scientifically speaking, this is staggering.
And for me personally, it’s staggeringly interesting and important. The second my Astronomy professor mentioned this fact about Europa, I immediately thought “why haven’t we gone there yet??” Of course, it’s not that easy to get there…but now we’re making plans to do so.
The article above lists several reasons why Europa is an important scientific step. Here’s another article from the most excellent website Science Daily:
(Okay, so, I just lost more than half the post I wrote because my stupid computer thought I clicked somewhere. Goddamnit laptops and their overly sensitive mousepads…at least I had everything up until here. But I HATE HATE HATE trying to recreate what I just lost when writing. It kills the flow. Big time. Ugh)
In short, Europa has a gigantic global-sized ocean of LIQUID WATER! That’s right, water…not freezing methane or some incredible inhospitable medium that would destroy anything put in it, but WATER. Just like Earth. It’s amazing. It has water and it has heat…which means it has a very good potential for life. In fact, it is the single most likely place beyond Earth that we know of where extraterrestrial (as in the scientific meaning of the word, life that is not on Earth) life might exist. Ever since my Astronomy professor said this in class, I’ve been dying to hear of news that we were going to send something there. And now we are.
I wish all the scientists working on these projects all the best in reaping the rewards of this scientific bonanza. As they say in the above articles, there’s no limit to the revolutionary science that can be gained from a visit to this icy moon. I hope they find all they hope to find.
……buuuuuuuuuuut, that’s not why I and my world view are personally interested in this mission.
It’s the life part. :)
Life. Living things, somewhere else, other than Earth, growing, living, evolving, surviving, all with their own set of parameters. What if there is indeed life on Europa? Now, before you go thinking I’m some childish alien hunter, understand that I do mean life as in, most likely, bacteria or single-celled organisms. I’m not exactly expecting alien civilizations in the form of sentient dolphins swimming around up there (that would be pretty cool though, right?). I’m practical. But what if there is life there? What would that mean for us, here?
Whether or not they’ve actually discovered fossilized bacteria on Mars, they haven’t discovered any life living there now. Europa’s still the best bet. And what if they do find life there? Will the religious zealots finally start to realize that Earth is just a very lucky planet, and not some mythical center of the universe? Will our perspective actually change? Will the discovery help to finally make us start looking at ourselves as a race of human beings instead being so fragmented?
As you can see, it’s easy to get ahead of one’s self with these sort of things. But I can’t help but think that if any of these far-fetched questions ever start to develop answers, however many years down the road, it will start with the incontrovertible assertion that there is indeed life of some sort existing somewhere that is not on Earth. That we, biologically speaking, are not organically alone. Even if there’s nothing on Europa but ice and water, it’s about time we looked up close. And now we’re going to. Way to go us.
Let’s hope it happens…it’s still over a decade until it will all come together. That’s a lot of time for stuff to go wrong or stupid people to get in the way.