Airdate: Mar 11, 1999
Scientist: David Morrison
Jupiter's moon Europa may be home to one of the few bodies of liquid water in our solar system.
Humans have long wondered about life on other planets- but some recent discoveries may offer clues about where to look. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.
David Morrison is Director of Space at NASA's Ames Research Center.
"To search for life on other planets we first have to ask what life is and under what circumstances it might arise. So far, we believe that life, at least life like we have on Earth has one central requirement and that is liquid water."
Recent images sent back to earth from Galileo-- a spacecraft presently in orbit around Jupiter-- suggest that there may be water beneath the outer shell of Europa, one of Jupiter's moons.
"What's unique about Europa is it is the only other place in the solar system that appears to have a great deal of liquid water. That at least over much of its history, Europa has had a deep, liquid global ocean of water underneath a thick, icy crust."
And if water is the elixir of life on our own planet, well, might it also be so for Europa? Well, to find out, scientists will have to overcome come a number of obstacles-- not in the least of which is getting there.
"If Europa has a liquid ocean, we would love to explore it. But that will be difficult. Europa is a long way away. And to explore that global ocean we would have to somehow penetrate through miles of solid icy crust and then have our spacecraft morph itself into a submarine and go off hunting underneath that ocean. It's an exciting prospect but not something we will do very quickly."
Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.