Feb 102017

NASA has just released a report on a Europa lander mission. I haven’t read all the way through it (in fact, I’ve just glanced through it), but it seems fairly extensive. The lander design itself seems pretty preliminary. It also looks like a walking “rover,” but the legs are just long in order to allow the lander to safely come to rest on whatever terrain it happens to land on.

The lander would have instruments meant to look for the signs of life. Pretty obviously, the chances of life appearing *anywhere* near the surface of Europa are as close to zero as you can get. However, assuming that many, many kilometers below there is a liquid water ocean, and assuming that there is recognizable life swimming or floating around in the water, chances are fairly good that bits of it, everything from biochemicals on up to actual critters, would get trapped in the ice. Over extremely long periods of time the cold, icy equivalent of geological processes might drag that stuff up to the surface, where it might be detectable.

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You can download the report here:

Europa Lander Science Definition Team Report

Some of the illustrations:

Europa Lander Image1 Europa Lander Image2 Europa Lander Image3 Europa Lander Image4 Europa Lander Image5 Europa Lander Image6


 Posted by at 8:49 pm
Feb 072017

In December of 1948, American media outlets reported that Defense Secretary Forrestal had announced that the US wanted a space station for military purposes. The US had, in fact, been working on space for military applications since the end of World War II with both the US Navy and US Air Force studying space launch systems as early as 1944. However, the 1948 space station was most likely just a talking point, something that the Pentagon would *like* to have for any of a number of military purposes. So far as I’m aware, no actual designs produced by relevant government or corporate design bureaus have come to light. Still, the lack of anything firm to base an artists impression on didn’t slow down the media; a number of newspaper and magazine artists impressions were produced. Many of them, such as the one below (from the December 31, 1948, Washington Daily News, via an EBay auction), demonstrate a substantial lack of understanding of, well, *everything*. They tended to be a weird mishmash of Flash Gordon sci-fantasy with the V-2 and similar exotic and half-comprehended technologies.

Note that this cartoonish “space station” seems to have it all… radar, giant cannon barrels and a square mirror to reflect sunlight to set the enemy alight. This, of course, would not work.

 Posted by at 10:36 am