Wednesday, February 18, 2009

NASA and The ESA Are Going To Jupiter and Saturn


NASA has just released a major announcement. Two outer planet flagship missions have been given the go ahead for further studies and eventual implementation.

1. The Europa Jupiter system mission

2. The Titan Saturn system mission.

What is too cool about this announcement is that most everybody was expecting approval of one or the other, not both. NASA and the European Space Agency working closely together hope to finally answer the question, is there life elsewhere in the universe.



The Europa Jupiter mission has been given priority, launch date 2020. Two orbiters, one built by NASA one by ESA will arrive at Jupiter in 2026. The orbiters will study Jupiter, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

I was able to reach Dr.Richard Greenberg over the phone and ask him a few questions about the Europa Jupiter mission. Dr. Greenberg is Professor of Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona. He has written two books on Europa, "Unmasking Europa" a book for general audiences and "Europa The Ocean Moon" a more detailed book and suited for undergraduates.

Dr. Greenberg was part of a science definition team assembled by NASA to put together facts they already knew about Jupiter, Saturn and their moons and to come up with the best ideas for the two missions. When I asked Dr. Greenberg what his research group's main goal was now, he stated to continue to do research and interpret what they now know as much as possible so that when the mission is finally designed and run it will be done with as much knowledge as possible.



Dr. Greenberg who's background is in Celestial mechanics, meaning the study of the orbits and rotations of planets and their moons, first put forth the idea that the moons of Jupiter, specifically Europa might be affected by tides created by Jupiter's enormous pull on little Europa, creating what we see as crisscrossing lines or cracks on Europa's surface, that an ocean is just below a thin layer crust and that if we were able to examine the slush that comes up through the cracks created by the enormous tidal waves we could very well find some type of oceanic substances and perhaps samples of any organisms that might be present in the ocean.

I also asked him what we hope to learn from the Europa Jupiter mission that we haven't already discovered through the Galileo mission to Jupiter. He mentioned things like the orbiter being equipped with a laser altimeter which would measure the topography of the surface ice, something new. Radio tracking, allowing the gravitational field of Europa to be measured, not been done before, putting the two experiments results together will determine the amplitude of the tides, providing further confirmation of the unseen ocean.

The new NASA orbiter will be equipped with a very high resolution camera, you see the problem with the Galileo mission to Jupiter was the main antenna never opened so they had a limited amount of high resolution images sent back, not anywhere near the amount they would have liked, the new camera will produce near meter scale imaging, to see up close and personal, to image the surface perhaps at just the right time when slush is breaking through to the surface. Now, very cool, an orbiter radar, maybe able to once and for all determine the thickness of Europa's ocean covering crust, but most critical determine linkages between the ocean and the surface, the connection between the ocean and Europa's surface are what make it possible for life to flourish.




The Titan Saturn mission will consist of a NASA orbiter and an ESA lander and research balloon, the lander will actually land in one of the northern lakes of Titan and test for signs of life while the orbiter flys through the plumes of Enceladus, one of Saturn's moons again looking for any signs of life.

When all is said and done, two very exciting missions to look forward to. Looking for and finding life even microbial in our own solar system, our own backyard, increases the chances that we are not alone, that there is someone else out there, maybe even watching us right now.

36 comments:

Mike said...

Very nice post and site! I am impressed with your use of graphics and images. Great information! Keep up the good work.

Anna said...

Hey Bob, I still have then a chance to travel to another planet, lol, this is so cool, especially Saturn. BTW your animated Gif is just awesome, and not to mention all your write up, good stuff as always. I will be back to read other two posts I missed, later. Anna :)

Stephanie said...

Gotta love a space program that goes new places!

Linda said...

That is so cool that both missions got approved. The scientists must be estatic!

GAGAY said...

woooooooooooh! Mr. Bob, i wanna go go go go go travel to other planet!hahaha! if only given the chance, *sigh*

gagay

Laane said...

Marvellous post!
Wish I could go there.

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks a lot Mike and thanks for dropping by.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Lol, thanks Anna, glad you liked the post and the gif,

Bob Johnson said...

Hi Stephanie, now if only we could go to new places with somebodies.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Hi Linda, we'll I don't think estatic is in scientist's vocabulary,lol, but they are happy about both missions being approved for sure.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Hi GAGAY, me too, but unfortunately not going to happen in my lifetime.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks Laane, and thanks for dropping by.\m/\m/

JD Beaudoin said...

Too cool Bob! I really hope I'm around to see the results. And I have to agree with Anna...your animated GIG is a true winner. Well done.
~JD

Swubird said...

Bob:

This is a fabulous post. And it was a great idea to contact the scientist in Arizona. Well done. I just hope that I am still around to see and hear about the success of the mission. Plus, that was a fabulous series of videos. I just finished listening to the radio emissions from Saturn. Very cool stuff.

It's a very sophisticated project with literally ten million things that can go wrong. A dead landing would be the most depressing thing that could happen. Let's all keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.

Great post.

Happy stargazing

Ivanhoe said...

That is so exciting! Except I'm not sure if the money should be spent on it right now, during our depression...
The award is all yours, Bob. Two of the commentators already had it so the passed it onto two more commentators :o)

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks JD, like you said, the only problem is 2020, I hope I'm around too,lol.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks swubird, I thought the interview if I could get it would be cool as well. There is so much left in the planning and like you said there are millions of things that could go wrong, especially the funding,lol.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks Ivanhoe for the award!! At least the money they are going to spend is in the budget so far, the recession sucks, even affecting us up here in Canada.\m/\m/

Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

Bob, I don't think you'll sleep a wink until these missions happen. :D I can hear your heart pounding in anticipation. :D

The Jupiter and Saturn missions are going to be AMAZING!!! I can't wait to hear the news about Europa's cracks.


WOOT!!!!

What great photos!!! Soooo interesting.


I love your moon halo in the last post. How exceptional!!!

I have news on my blog. :D

Hugs, JJ

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks JJ, love your new blog looks super, and congratulations of the Book Photography contract, very cool.

Shinade said...

Wow do you think I could get a ticket for my hubby? This has been his dream all of his life. He wants to go out there and be among the stars.

Wonderful post Bob:-)

Dawn said...

I have enjoyed visitng your blog since I ran across it a couple of weeks ago. My son, who is homeschooled, is studying astronomy, and he really loved this particular post; since we're just now starting the planets of this solar system, it was very timely information. You've inspired him to dig deeper into his studies, for which I thank you.

Bob Johnson said...

Lol Shinade, I'll see what I can do. Traveling among the planets and stars are a dream hopefully one day will be realized by our future generations, I'm hoping that be the case anyways.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

That is so cool Dawn. I remember my dad bringing a telescope home one day and how that me me start to dream of the cosmos.\m/\m/

trompyx said...

really good!

kml said...

Haha, Bob! They really are watching and I now wonder what they are thinking of us mere humans. I'm hoping that in the afterlife we all get to find out as we explore this beautiful universe!

Dr. Lauren said...

I really enjoyed my visit here. I am becoming fascinated with Earth Science, of course I'm studying for my Doctorate of Archeology, so they kind of relate.

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks trompyx, and thanks for dropping by.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Lol, thanks Kathy,probably think we need help. I can hardly wait to tour the universe in the after life.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks Dr. Lauren, so glad you enjoyed your time here and good luck with your Doctorate, and yes they do relate very much so.\m/\m/

Roger said...

Truly a awesome post Bob! Thanks for gathering all that good info!

Phyl said...

Such exciting news! I'm always grateful I can drop in on your blog and find out about things like this. Thanks for the detailed discussion!

Bob Johnson said...

Hey Roger, thanks a lot.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks Phyl, and thanks for dropping by.\m/\m/

JD Beaudoin said...

Hey Bob.... I just thought I would give you a heads up. I've had to delete my blog because I am being stalked. Believe it or not.
I'll continue to visit your site over the next few months and will eventually reopen (with my own website this time and outside the blogging world) in a few months after things have died down. I've always appreciated your visits my friend and I thank you immensely.
~JD

Genie said...

This was such a carefully researched and thoughtfully written blog entry! Your dedication knows no bounds. This is exciting news!