Senior Researcher Says Project To Be Announced Soon
All fans of Arthur C.
Clarke's novel "2010: Odyssey Two" may feel a slight shudder
upon reading this next story. A Russian researcher says the
European Space Agency will soon announce plans to launch an
unmanned probe to investigate the Jovian moon of Europa, to search
for simple lifeforms.
Agence-France Presse reports the head of the Russian Space
Research Institute, Lev Zelyony, broke the news this weekend...
adding Russia will participate in the mission, slated for sometime
between 2015 and 2025.
"The main task is to explore its satellite Europa, on which
under a thick layer of ice a liquid water ocean has been detected,"
Unlike Clarke's vision of a mission to Europa -- which saw the
Chinese manned spacecraft Tsien land on the mysterious
moon -- the ESA's unmanned mission will be called Laplace, Zelyony
said, after the French astronomer Pierre-Simon Laplace. Apart from
that, however, there are many similarities.
Like the fictional Tsien landing, Laplace will also
land on Europa, and then search for possible lifeforms contained
inside and underneath the frozen ice layer surrounding the planet.
Zelyony said the probe may land in one of the fissures of that
"Where there is an ocean, life could arise. In this respect,
after Mars, the Europa satellite is probably the most intriguing
place in the solar system," said Zelyony.
Hopefully, the ESA/Russian mission will end better than the
Tsien's -- which in the novel was destroyed by primitive,
creeping plant-like lifeforms as the crew refilled the spacecraft's
fuel tanks with water from the planet. (Helpful hint to ESA, do
NOT equip the Laplace probe with bright lights --
Russia has cooperated with ESA extensively in revitalizing its
space program, after years of neglect following the 1991 collapse
of the Soviet Union. A Russian Soyuz mission is scheduled to blast
off late this year from ESA's Kourou launchpad in French