As we wrote two years ago, Jupiter’s moon Europa may actually be the best place in our solar system to seek out extraterrestrial life.
It’s largely believed that the moon has an entire underwater ecosystem, ripe with the sort of conditions needed to support life, even if only on a bacterial level. A mission several years ago had been denied due to under funding, but renewed pushes seem to have been effective in swaying the minds that hold the money.
So why should we detour money from the planned Mars mission and funnel it into this pipe-dream? For starters, it’s long been a mission of NASA’s and other space agencies (SETA, Hubble, Voyager, etc) to seek out life as it may exist on other planets/moons. This is important for several reasons.
It’s no secret that our planet’s population is growing faster than the resources able to support it. This means that in the future, however far away that might be, we will have to leave the planet. Not all of us, but enough to allow the Earth to continue functioning as a habitable environment for human and animal life. While Europa may or may not be a possible destination, the discovery of life would help scientists better understand what sort of conditions are needed for evolution to occur.
This is necessary for the development of Terraforming machinery — devices that effectively convert a planet’s atmosphere into one capable of supporting human settlement. Our current understanding of this process estimates that it would take hundreds to thousands of years for us to transform Mars into an Earth-like planet — and that’s only when we’ve discovered how to create Terraforming machines in the first place.
If life is found on Europa, then samples of these “aliens” would be brought back for research. Advances in medical science, biology, physics, and so much more would be accomplished by such a monumental discovery. In essence, we need to go to Europa in order to better understand how we as humans came to be, and where to travel next in our journey to colonize the stars.
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