If you’ve been looking to get into research and development for a space program, but NASA wouldn’t give your resume a second look, today’s your lucky day. If you’re interested in helping to send human beings to search for life on an alien world, you can get started right now. The Objective Europa website has launched, and is ready to accept contributors.
Objective Europa’s goal is to send people all the way to Jupiter’s moon of Europa, which, thanks to the speculated presence of liquid water, tops the short-list of extraterrestrial places in our solar system where scientists think life could be found. And rather than waiting for a government or large private concern to do it, Objective Europa is going to attempt to use interested parties from across the world to “crowd-research” the trip. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a likely candidate to join the team.
Motherboard spoke with Kristian von Bengtson, Objective Europa’s aerospace architect, about a month ago. von Bengtson already has experience crowd-sourcing a space program with Copenhagen Suborbitals and he’s optimistic that opening the doors to anyone interested in helping is not only the best way, but probably the only feasible way for the mission to happen.
“With a big pool of people, you can go really fast,” he said, when explaining the appeal of crowd-research. “There’s seven billion people on this world. You can easily get thousands doing this, I believe and I hope.”
This marks the beginning of Objective Europa’s Phase I—not just answering the big questions, but asking which questions need to be asked. Exploring Europa would involve traveling farther than anyone ever has in space, then bursting through the moon’s ice crust and exploring the liquid-water ocean below that scientists speculate is warmed by Europa’s core. The mission is then a combination of a long-term space mission, unprecedented landing and drilling, then converting the spacecraft into a submersible. So there’s a lot to address.
von Bengtson isn’t expecting the mission to leave anytime soon, but it’s one of those “a year from now, you’ll be a year ahead ahead if you didn’t start at all,” sort of things.
“Within 100 years or 200 years people are going to send people to Europa anyway. I’m pretty sure that we can advance this project. Maybe cut 50 years off. Maybe make it feasible in, say, 30 years,” von Bengston said. “We’re not talking about launching in 10 years because it’s a major thing to do and also very costly.”
The website is up now, and has a list of research topics that you—yes, you!—can get started on this afternoon, if you so please. Topics range from finding viable launch windows, to how to mitigate the high levels of radiation that Europa is bombarded with, to how the interior of the spacecraft should be designed, and how astronauts should deal with the fact that it’s a one-way trip. There’s also a template for how reports should be filed, a discussion forum and a library of resources to get started.
All the site needs now, is contributors. According to the website, Objective Europa is welcoming "scientists, academia, universities, private parties, individuals, architects, designers, conceptual artists, space-enthusiasts, psychologists, sociologists, electrical engineers, software programmers, artists, writers, authors, philosophers, geologists, polar-scientists, divers, submariners, mountaineers, propulsion engineers and everyone else to join us!" So when you have a minute, dust off your old physics textbooks and let's get going already.