A trip to Europa must take into account information gained by the Voyager mission in the 1980s and the Galileo mission of the 1990s. These missions provided information about the conditions that might be encountered when the craft arrives. The moon is thought to have an internal ocean that heats the moon (Fazekas). It is believed that one would find a frozen, dirty saltwater ocean at its surface (Fazekas).
Europa orbits Jupiter every 3.5 days and is in a phased locked orbit, which means that the same side of the moon always faces Jupiter (NASA, Europa). The time that it would take a craft to travel to Jupiter would very depending on the orbit. Jupiter orbits the sun every 11.86 earth years. The earth catches up with it every 389.9 days (Redd). Depending on launch characteristics and timing, it can take anywhere from 13 months to 5 years to travel to Europa (Redd). As this will be a manned flight, it will be timed to take the shortest time possible.
The weight of supplies needed for the journey would add considerable weight to the craft and would require a larger power system. Fuel would also add weight. Therefore, the craft will use solar power and will house a hydroponic garden where food can be grown. The sun is almost 25 times weaker than light on Earth, therefore the solar panels will have to be large enough to compensate for this (Handwerk).
The craft and humans would have to be able to withstand the environment when they arrived. The craft would have to be able to safely land on ice, as there is no true land (NASA, Europa). It has an oxygen atmosphere, but not at the correct concentration to support human life (Fazekas). Humans would have to have suits that allowed them to withstand temperatures of -260 degrees F, radiation 10 times greater than on Earth, and oxygen levels that are too high and an atmosphere too thin to support human life (Space.com).
- Fazekas, Andrew. Nasa Ponders Life-Seeking Mission to Europa Moon. National Geographic. August 8, 2013. Web. October 31, 2013. http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/08/08/nasa-ponders-life-seeking-mission-to-europa-moon/
- Handwerk, Brian. NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Headed to Jupiter Friday. National Geographic News. August 3, 2011. Web. October 31, 2013. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/08/110804-jupiter-nasa-spacecraft-juno-planets-space-science/
- NASA. Europa: Overview. Web. October 31, 2013. http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Object=Jup_Europa
- Redd, Taylor. How Far Away is Jupiter? Space.com. November 7, 2012. Web. October 31, 2013. http://www.space.com/18383-how-far-away-is-jupiter.html
- Space.com. Europa: Facts About Jupiter’s Icy Moon and its Ocean. July 3, 2012. Web. October 31, 2013. http://www.space.com/15498-europa-sdcmp.html