What has any icy crust, a metallic core, more water than the Earth and is located, oh, about 630 million km from here? Why Europa, of course, the sixth-closest moon to Jupiter, and the dreamed-of destination of Objective Europa, a new crowd-researched investigation into the possibility of sending humans there.
Europa has long fascinated astrobiologists because it may have the best chance of supporting life of all known nearby planetary bodies — after all, its ocean is 10 times deeper than ours, and its atmosphere is primarily composed of oxygen.
Objective Europa is the brain child of Kristian von Bengtson, a Danish designer and architect who's been trying to build a homemade spacecraft to launch himself into a suborbital flight. For the project, he's gathered together architects, former NASA-specialists, scientists and general-purpose space enthusiasts, and is hoping to gather many more.
“We have this amazing ability to get all the brainpower connected on the internet, and we have enough data to start looking into this,” von Bengtson told Wired. “So why the heck hasn’t anybody else tried to look into this?”
Of course, getting to Europa won't be easy: in addition to the tremendous distance and cost, any mission would have to contend with extreme environmental condisions on the Jovian moon, where the radiation is many thousand times stronger than it is on Earth. It would take about 600 days to make it there, and there's no guarantee that astronauts would be able to make the return voyage.
“I kind of have this naïve idea that if humanity wants to do something badly enough and there’s enough people backing it, then eventually we can pull it off,” von Bengtson said. And he's not just looking for rocket scientists: Objective Europa is currently seeking proofreaders, writers, conference organizers and anyone else who can contribute to the effort.