2018-19 Romania Winner (Tie), Grade 7-8 – Target: Europa
Ruxandra Sofronie, Vlad Carasel, Maria Neagoie, and Andrei Ciobanu
School: “Tudor Vianu” National High School of Computer Science
“Europa is the smallest of the four Jupiter’s Galilean moons and the sixth closest to the planet of all the other 78 moons. It was first seen by Galileo Galilei on the 7th of January, 1610.
Observations with the Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph of the Hubble Space Telescope, first described in 1995, revealed that Europa has a thin atmosphere composed mostly of molecular oxygen. First of all, the scientists have believed that Europa’s core was covered by a frozen ocean. The smoothness and the youth of the surface have led to the theory that there is an ocean under the icy crust.
Kevin Hand and Mike Brown first came with the theory of life existence on Europa. As Kevin Hand said, “If we learned something about life on Earth, it is that where there is liquid water there is, in general, life. Perhaps the ocean of Europa is also a wonderful place for life.” The fact that the radiation level is really high and the temperature is very low shows that there can only exist microorganisms. The icy depths of the moons are thought to contain vents to the mantle much as oceans on Earth do. These vents could provide the necessary thermal environment to help life evolve. In 2016, a study suggested that Europa produces 10 times more oxygen than hydrogen, which is similar to Earth. This could make its probable ocean friendlier for life and the moon may not need to rely on tidal heating to generate enough energy. Instead, chemical reactions would be enough to drive the cycle.
For science, this would be the biggest find of the century. However, we won’t be able to bring samples of the European species, because the risk of the Earth to get contaminated would be way too big. The organism might disappear, or kill tens, hundreds, billions or all life on Earth. Another risk of the mission would be that the radiations could affect cameras, basic systems and the people on the spaceship.
Even if we could lose lots of people and money, the humanity would find lots of answers about everything. Also, the “Existence Theory” will be totally changed. Or, maybe, the religion would be different in the eyes of the mankind.
Because of these facts, the exploration of Europa is going to be difficult, but the results are probably going to be brilliant.
In conclusion, we think that the exploration of Europa will be an enormous step for the humanity, even if we find or not a different life form in there.”