This is amazing news: NASA is sending a mission to Europa! If everything goes well, a robotic submarine may be landing on Jupiter's moon — the world that scientists believe is the most likely to contain life in the solar system — by 2030, a real space odyssey. This has the potential to change the world.
"Attempt no landings there," the aliens said at the end of 2010, a warning that Adam Steltzner — the guy who spent nine years of his life putting the rover Curiosity on Mars in the most spectacular NASA mission since the Apollo program — doesn't care about. This is his dream mission and the dream mission of every space scientists now at NASA, as he told me back in August 2012, after Curiosity's successful landing on Mars.
Adam: The site in the solar system that we believe that is the most likely to contain life today is Europa. I want to lead a team to go under the ice, into the ocean of the moon Europa.
Me: Get a submarine up there.
Adam Steltzner told me then that he has already spent night after night sharing beers, drawing on a whiteboard, and talking about the potential mission scenarios with astrobiologist and planetary scientist Kevin Hand, one of the biggest experts in this moon.
Priced around the same as Curiosity, he said this mission "will be very challenging, just there right amount of challenging, tough, like we like it, like our nation need it. We need something to strive for. And Europa is that," he says.
This is it, yes. Despite the alien warnings, we are headed into the oceans of one of the most intriguing worlds in the solar system. And while it's not a manned mission, it still sends chills down my spine just to think about the possibilities.