Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lakes on Europa

     I read with interest the recent articles about the  renewed suspicion that there is liquid water somewhere under the surface of Europa -- a moon of Saturn.  Water is something that would be very useful if one were thinking of trying to establish a space colony.  Water can be a source of oxygen, and, of course, it's important for drinking and watering crops.  The speculation was that there might even be life in the water already.
     Of course, the mere existence of liquid water does not solve all the problems associated with trying to establish a space colony. 
      First, there is the difficulty of getting to those distant places.  I gather we've crashed half the spacecraft we've sent to Mars, which is closer than Saturn.  I gather the Russians just had a Mars bound spacecraft fail as well.  This technology of space travel is still very primitive.
     Second, the conditions on Europa are hardly favorable.  The sun is very small and dim at that distance and would not be a good source of much solar power.  Moreover, the temperature is frigid, far colder than the earth, even colder than the Antarctic.   The atmosphere there would be thin at best.  Gravity there is quite light, which would likely cause long term health problems for humans
     It just does not seem like a very hospitable place for human astronauts to try to establish a space colony.
     But then I wonder if we might genetically engineer something that might live there, something with a human brain that could communicate with us but with a different body, maybe more like a fish, something that could live underneath the crust of Europa, in the dark, in frigid water.  I wonder whether various kinds of genetically engineered astronauts adapted to different conditions on various planets might not be a general solution to the issues associated with colonizing space.

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