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Elite team of researchers plots one-way trip to Jupiter's ice moon Europa to look for aliens

Elite team of researchers plots one-way trip to Jupiter's ice moon Europa to look for aliens

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Kristian von Bengston, the do-it-yourself space king and cofounder of Copenhagen Suborbitals, just announced the first phase of a project that's either extremely ambitious or unrealistic, depending on who you ask. Objective Europa is a scheme to send humans on a one-way trip to Jupiter's ice moon Europa, where scientists believe the presence of water means there could be life. And if that wasn't enough, as von Bengston enthused to Vice: "Landing on ice? Then you penetrate the crust? And turning your space capsule into a submersible? Isn’t that the coolest mission you could ever do?"

Copenhagen Suborbitals, a small-scale space agency that is working on sending an astronaut into low-Earth orbit, is entirely crowdfunded by donations from space geeks around the world. But von Bengston is not looking for money for Objective Europa yet. "The starting point of Objective Europa is purely theoretical but will move into more advanced phases including prototyping, technology try-outs, and eventually a crewed launch – if we conclude that such a mission is possible," the website says.

Instead of raising money, von Bengston hopes to recruit skilled volunteers from different disciplines to help with a feasibility study. The effort will be spearheaded by a team of "architects, designers, former NASA-specialists, scientists and dreamers" backed up by an international fan base of unpaid researchers.

While Copenhagen Suborbitals has managed to perform several launch tests and seems in reach of its goal of sending a human to near space for 15 minutes, a mission to Europa is infinitely less plausible. First, there's the massive gravitational pull of Jupiter, which will require massive amounts of fuel to overcome. Second, there's radiation from charged particles in Jupiter's magnetic field, which would require massively expensive shielding in order to protect the ship's electronics. And of course it's really, really far away. NASA's Galileo probe took six years to get to Jupiter; von Bengston is hoping to get to Europa in 600 days. That's all assuming a manned mission is physically possible — and that's not a trivial "if." But at the least, Objective Europa aims to find out.