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Could Humans Live On Europa? | Unveiled

VOICE OVER: Noah Baum WRITTEN BY: Dylan Musselman
Europa is the smallest of Jupiter's Galilean Moons... and it could be a second Earth for the human race in the future! In this video, Unveiled travels halfway across the solar system to weigh up the pros and cons of living on Europa. Scientists already think that life might exist beneath the icy moon's surface, in vast oceans of liquid water... but what else do we need to know about this distant, amazing world?
Transcript

Could Humans Live on Europa?


When it comes to human colonies in the solar system, Mars is usually billed as our best bet because it offers some favourable conditions and isn’t too far away… But the Red Planet isn’t without its share of problems, either. There are other solar system places that we could even be better suited to…

This is Unveiled and today we’re answering the extraordinary question; Could humans live on Europa?

The Galilean moons - Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto - are the four largest of the many moons of the gas giant Jupiter; named that way because they were large enough for Galileo to spot them through his telescope. Europa is the smallest of the four but is still only slightly smaller than our own moon (and about one-quarter the size of Earth). Significantly, though, this unassuming, far-off world is thought to contain vast oceans of water around 10 to 15 miles below its icy surface. Scientists even estimate that it could hold roughly double the total water content of our own planet, with seas that are 40 to 100 miles deep. All of which means that Europa has long been considered one of the most likely places to find extraterrestrial life in the solar system.

So, if it’s already a contender to host life, could humans one day live there as well? If life does exist on Europa (and there’s no proof that it does at the moment) it’s thought it would probably be bacteria or single-celled organisms, which are generally much more resilient than human beings. Humans, by contrast, need a number of conditions and criteria to be met before there’s even a chance of survival. Europa could naturally provide us with water to drink, but we also need air to breathe, food to eat and reliable shelter. And that’s just the basics! We also need to think about surface temperatures, air pressure, the strength of gravity, and the make-up of the atmosphere. We need to maintain an internal body temperature of thirty-seven degrees Celsius, and we need to feed our bodies with just the right balance of nutrients. With all of that considered, there aren’t any places in the solar system where we could just land, disembark and immediately start setting up base. But Europa offers more potential than most to terraform.

Crucially, Europa does have an atmosphere. And, even better, that atmosphere is solely made up of oxygen. But, unfortunately, it’s also much too thin for humans to breathe… Still, the fact that there is a small amount of oxygen is a very good start - and something that already sets Europa apart from a lot of other planets and moons (along with the water). In theory, were we to terraform, we’d only need to harness and create more oxygen (in as safe a way as possible).

However, the thin Europa atmosphere in-part explains arguably the most dangerous part of any potential mission there; the radiation! The surface of Europa is pelted with about 540 Rem daily, comfortably enough to kill a person very quickly. So much so, the threat of radiation poisoning is pitched as the biggest reason why Europa perhaps isn’t suitable for human habitation, period. But, in a future world where astronauts can feasibly travel to Jupiter in the first place, there could be couple of ways to bypass this obstacle too. We could either try building very thick, ultra-advanced protective shields on the surface, or we could use Europa’s own icy shell as a protective barrier by living below it. The ice would be thick enough to block out the radiation, which is one reason why scientists think there already could be life in the water below. True, the idea of a far-off human outpost totally submerged in water and buried underneath fifteen miles of ice isn’t perhaps the most welcoming of mental images… but no one said this would be easy!

Regardless, say we’ve mastered and enhanced Europa’s oxygen and built a home beneath its radiation-defeating ice shelf… what then? Well, the gravity presents another obvious challenge. Europa’s gravity is slightly weaker than our own moon’s, and about 13% that of Earth. In the short term, it’d mean having to get used to floating about in low gravity conditions. But, in the long-term it poses greater problems for us as low gravity has been linked to weakening immune systems, lessening bone density, and bringing about muscle atrophy among other things. Astronauts counteract these effects by using exercise machines and following strict exercise routines during stays on the International Space Station, for example, but were humans ever to permanently live with less gravity it’d mean whole generations of people battling major and unprecedented health issues.

So, the water is fantastic (though it is thought to be saltwater, so would need purifying); the atmosphere is also promising; the radiation, not so much (but there are workarounds); and the gravity is a great (but potentially damaging) unknown… The temperatures on Europa are another key hurdle on our prospective mission to live there. The surface sees temperatures ranging from minus-160 to minus-220 degrees Celsius - so even without the constant radiation threat, living on the surface isn’t really feasible.

Luckily, though, the water where we’d be headed isn’t nearly as cold. All of which raises all new questions on underwater settlements… specifically, can we even build them? A growing number of architects think that we can… and some have even started to design underwater cities on Earth; like the pioneering Conshelf Stations One and Two, built in the 1960s. These types of project are still in their very early stages even on our own planet, but by the time we’ve developed space travel techniques advanced enough to get people to Europa… perhaps we’d also have perfected underwater living, as well.

Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, though. Even in a reality where we really could live underwater en masse, the issues on Europa’s surface wouldn’t disappear. Ultimately, in the event that we successfully arrive at the far-off moon in the future, navigating the surface to get under the ice could still prove very difficult; but staying there… maybe not so much!

Europa is by no means the perfect candidate for off-Earth living, but it does offer more than most other places. And there are even a couple of missions already aiming to place a colony on Europa… although none are past the research and development phase just yet. One of these, the crowdsourced “Objective Europa”, reportedly hopes to land on the icy moon as soon as 2045!

Could humans live on Europa? More and more people are claiming that it’s possible. Right now, it’s a matter of first getting there; second, surviving the surface; and third, adapting to life underground, underwater on a Jovian moon! It’s certainly a long shot, but there are still plenty of reasons to regard Europa with particular interest.
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Why can't we adapt to our own moon. Figure it out. its closer and we humans are so familiar with her. I Love Our Earth Moon. Let's Do It%u2661%u2661%u2661