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House tells NASA to start planning two Europa missions (arstechnica.com)
242 points by Tomte on May 21, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 96 comments

Note that the text that came out of the subcommittee (http://appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/bills-114hr-sc...) mandates that NASA use the Space Launch System (SLS) to launch the missions.

SLS is a stunningly overpriced rocket that Congress is forcing NASA to build to keep former shuttle contractors and NASA centers employed. Congress is sending ~ $1.8 billion every year to states including Alabama, Florida, Utah, and Louisiana to develop it. There are very few payloads manifested for it. Launching the Europa missions on it would be a tremendous waste of money—the benefits would not warrant the cost.

It would be worth exploring the lobbying performed by SLS contractors including Boeing and Orbital ATK, as well as that of people close to the main NASA centers involved with SLS, the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

> SLS is a stunningly overpriced rocket that Congress is forcing NASA to build to keep former shuttle contractors and NASA centers employed.

Understanding this is key to understanding a key constraint on how NASA operates. 10 separate field centers that work together, but are just as likely to try and stab each other in the back using their local congresspersons to get work earmarked.

I work in support both NASA aeronautics and space. Generally speaking, I appreciate the aero side more because, despite the small fraction of the overall agency budget, I feel like it has a much healthier and better-defined relationship with industry and academia at large (e.g. no one in NASA aero has any illusion about being an airline or airframe production company, we work and deliver on fundamental R&D). Which makes sense as largely a direct continuation of our precursor agency, NACA.

I remember there being a feeling that, post STS, the space side could make a similar transition - a developer of in-space fundamental research technology, and mission design/management with launch systems being treated as a "solved" technology to be purchased from vendors. But I think that senators in AL, FL, and TX will make sure that nevers happens, because it would likely gut the workforces of MSFC, KSC, and JSC.

I wonder how people would have felt about 'The Martian' if it had been about the political infighting within NASA a la 'The Wire.'

SLS is definitely an expensive option, however I'm not sure the cost:benefit trade-off is as poor as you make it sound.


"The mission concept review board in September concluded the SLS launch option was 'far superior' to other alternatives because it would allow the probe to fly directly to Jupiter in less than two years. Launching on a smaller rocket would require gravity assist flybys of Venus and Earth, adding three-and-a-half years to the voyage."

I think SLS makes a lot of sense for outer planet missions - at least until commercial super heavy lift options are available.

If you look closely in that article, you'll see the price that review board assumed for the SLS was $500 million. That's a number that SLS people like to throw around, but it is far, far less than many outsiders expect it will cost. The SLS is only expected to fly once every couple of years in the mid-2020's, so one or two years of the full cost of the program needs to be booked against each launch. Each will have an effective cost of $2 to 4 billion, and that doesn't even include any fraction of the enormous development cost.

It could easily be worthwhile to spend $500 million to cut a few years off of a $2 billion mission. It's much less likely to pay off when the cost is $2 to 4 billion. That's the equivalent of three to eight extra entire Discovery-class missions, or two to four New Frontier missions.

This is how things get approved since states want funding and jobs. That said the SLS has a lift capability twice the size of a Falcon heavy which hasn't been launched yet, so no I'm not sure that it's a waste since if we want to get to Europa quickly it's probably the best rocket we got atm.

SLS is also our best current candidate for serious human space flight past LEO, SLS brings up back to Energia and Saturn V launch capacity and while it is the usual cross state designed by a committee project it's good to have it since we do need it.

It's hard to know what's "best" when you're looking at a development program being run by an agency which has a not-so-good record of designing and building rockets.

An alternative would be to use multiple, much-cheaper launches, and rendezvous in orbit. Even though the spacecraft needs to be more complicated, the rocket tech will be much more proven. And on-orbit refuel is an active area of R&D in the commercial sector.

The alternative is something we've never really attempted to do before.

The rocket tech is already proven both SLS and ULA launch platforms are more proven and reliable than the Falcon.

Never attempted? No, done many times: ISS assembly and resupply. And the commercial satellite rendezvous and refueling market will probably be well on its way by 2020.

p.s. I'm confused by your mention of ULA vs Falcon reliability -- given that I didn't mention either! Did you read something into my comment?

The ISS was assembled when we had the shuttle, we never had reassembly and relaunch in orbit.

Commercial satellite refueling market won't be viable by 2020, we might have a handful of attempts.

And I didn't read anything into your comment since there isn't much beyond ULA (Delta, Atlas) and Falcon to launch the damn thing to begin with.

And I'm sorry that I don't want to bet on technology that isn't there yet in any shape and form to start planning for a mission that is supposed to launch in 7-8 years with a limited launch window and a failure that would set you back a decade + and not insurance payout + 18 months like if it was a commercial launch to LEO.

And again you are missing the point we need big rockets it's not even a question, and SLS is the only big rocket anyone is currently building, if Space X comes up with a Falcon Heavy Plus capable of competing against the SLS on both payload mass and reliability there would be a room to talk.

We need NASA, and the US need cross state national projects because they are industry incubators, yes they are inefficient at times but you get plenty for them. If going to Europa also means that the US is back at building Saturn V class rockets it's a huge plus regardless the costs.

Oh, so the modules launched by the Russians, and all of the supply vehicles, somehow don't count? I'm afraid that you're coming at this argument with a very different and impossible-to-understand worldview.

Depending on the design, the craft could be assembled at off one of the docks for the ISS. Assembly would be little different than the actual construction of the ISS and could be launched with cheaper and less bureaucratically constricted launch systems.

Again no one currently does this atm, and there are no "cheaper and less bureaucratically constricted launch systems" atm to launch these things.

SpaceX isn't ready for these kinds of launches it's not proven enough. ULA is just a " bureaucratically constricted" as the SLS.

I don't understand why people are proposing to play around with projects that are already insanely risky and hard to approve, we get to send a probe to Europa, which on it's own is complicated enough and now you want to build a whole orbital launch platform around it? Let the industry do it, blow up some stuff in orbit till they make it work, blow up some more stuff in transit till they get things sorted and then lets use it to launch billion dollar probes to Jupiter.

Isn't trying something we've never done before the whole point of research funding? I am much more interested in advances in space technology than whatever we'll find on Europa.

There isn't exactly a rush to go to Europa, why not wait until cheaper rocketry is developed?

Europa doesn't have any clear commercial applications.

Taking the "let's just wait for someone else to do it" approach seems like a recipe for it never happening.

I guess because its projects like the Europa mission that make rocketry cheaper.

I don't see how we're going to make launching cheaper by doing 2 launches on a well understood but expensive platform.

While water is not uncommon in space, liquid water is a very rare. This is due to the fact that liquids in general can only exist in a relatively narrow range of temperatures and pressures (see phase diagram [1]).

Europa is one of the few places in the Solar system where we expect to find liquid water. One of the others is Mars, but most water there is solid - only small amounts of it occur in liquid form and only briefly. By contrast, Europa has a freaking underground ocean! Moreover, by some estimates it is larger in volume than all oceans on Earth combined [2].

Should we go check it out? Hell yeah!

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phase_diagram [2] http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap120524.html

There's more than a dozen solar system objects predicted to have liquid water:


Is there any reason why liquid water would not be possible below the surface of planets? Planets with active cores should radiate heat.

There might be aquifers below the surface of rocky bodies, provided sufficient heat and pressure exist to keep the water liquid. But this would be water in cracks on the rock, or in between grains of sand if sedimentary rocks exist. However, Europa is thought to have actual liquid oceans; these are underneath the ice that is the outer surface of the planet.

It is unlikely for there to be a water layer under rock because it would be gravitationally unstable to have a low-density layer under a higher one.

Yeah, I understand Mars doesn't have a molten core (anymore), but isn't the center still a lot warmer than the surface?

If so, there is a depth range where water is liquid.

Imagine selling bottled Europan water. Fiji, move over. That would help fund the mission, and no more battles with environmentalists over Nestle taking too much out of the aquifer etc. of course, that's assuming the Europans won't object.

XKCD has a What If on this very topic:


Until someone turns on a geiger counter. Europa isn't somewhere you'd like to stand for very long. Jupiter isn't a health spa.

At a probable price point around 20 million bucks a liter, I'm not sure that there'd be many customers.

I wonder what a water acquisition mission would cost. Under $10 billion? That would require 500 customers at $20 mil each. That's 500 out of several million people who could afford it. Or even more if people pool their resources and spring for a teaspoon of water each. It almost seems like it could be feasible.

That's only 498kg. Considering the Falcon Heavy's payload to Mars is 13,000kg (not sure what the return payload is), that would truly be a reasonable amount of water to bring back. And speaking of Fiji water, they could bring it back in Fiji bottles. Since those bottles have a special ability to make people pay $5 for $.001 of tap water, imagine what they could do with Europan water.

Joking aside, something like this actually could be used to fund space missions. I suspect that some people with hundreds of millions would be willing to pay top dollar for something as exclusive as an item from Europa.

Actually there are people who are looking exactly for items like that to buy. For them the price is more important than anything else. It wouldn't be many, that's true, but it would cover the costs and make a profit.

Something that commenters here don't seem aware of is that Saturn's moon Enceladus has liquid water which is similar to Europa's and much cheaper to study. Enceladus sprays its water into space via ice volcanoes - all we have to do is fly by and we get samples of the sea itself (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enceladus_Life_Finder). On Europa by contrast we have to land on a heavy moon with no atmosphere and then deal with a huge coat of ice, just to try to get a sample. It's an interesting mission but a bad allocation of resources.

I think NASA might hesitate to aim a precious probe at space geyser. The speeds are insane. But, if we could find a rock that has already traveled near enough to Enceladus ... and is coming our way. Then perhaps we can get that sample without actually going to Enceladus. We already have Mars rocks raining down on us. If we caught them while still in space we might have already found samples of Mars water.

Not really, they've done that a few times with Cassini. See for instance: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v460/n7254/abs/nature08... (you can get a copy of this with a title search in Google), studying the fragmentation results with its mass spectrometer while passing through the jet plumes. Another flagship Saturn mission with upgraded instruments would be very helpful.

NASA did just that. They flew Cassini through the geyser plumes at Enceladus to sample the presumed ocean beneath the ice on that world. At least twice. Once at an altitude of 30 miles.[1][2]

[1] http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_15...

[2] http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=4759

But did it come back? That sort of thing would require a much larger craft and/or one moving at a much faster relative velocity (free return). A rock that once passed through those geysers might be passing earth right now.

Europa sounds like a valid and important target for a lander. Just imagine if evidence of life is detected; it would drastically change our perception of our role in the universe. Suddenly we're not the only game in town. Religionists would have to adapt, conspiracists would spin their theories, and money for new expeditions would magically appear.

The question in my mind is, why is this initiative coming from the Congress rather than from the President or from NASA itself? What's happened to our national sense of adventure and exploration?

I remember the space fever of the 1960s and 1970s, and how it faded in the late 70s into a dull pride that we'd built a space bus, albeit a very expensive and compromised design that could take a team to low orbit and not much farther.

I guess we should celebrate the fact that someone with the power to fund new missions into deep space is making it happen, for whatever reason. But I'd like it better if Nasa were getting the kind of funding it really needs and the bold leadership it deserves to accelerate these sorts of spectacular missions that will advance our technologies and inspire more young people to go into the sciences.

> The question in my mind is, why is this initiative coming from the Congress rather than from the President or from NASA itself?

Because both the president and NASA's power pales in comparison to congress. Congress is responsible for budgets, they're the ones that approve/disprove/modify any bill or budget on the table. If they don't like a particular direction a government organization is going, they say "Hey, do this" and that organization does it. They do it because congress is their financier. Organizations like NASA have to justify their budgets and layout their plans and short/long term goals before any money is approved. Congress can and will say "We don't like those goals. Make these your goals instead" and replace them entirely.

A more sobering view of the situation, however, is that a congressman (or congressmen) probably has some big lobbyist lobbying for this because while NASA heads up the mission, NASA still relies on cooperation with private businesses to make parts, widgets, contract work, etc... These private entities and local municipalities would benefit from a huge NASA mission financially. Unfortunately, the senator who lobbied hard for this (John Culberson, R-Texas) almost certainly didn't do it for altruistic reasons. Someone somewhere is going to financially benefit in a big way.

Edit: As another commentor pointed out (and was downmodded for doing so, a bit boggling), John Culberson receives lobby money from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, Orbital ATK and Northrop Grumman. So there you have it... Don't get me wrong, I'm pro-space and pro-Europa trip. Just giving the lay of the land and answering your question.

> Religionists would have to adapt

I doubt this, many "moderate" religions cope with multiple intelligent beings just fine, i.e. the catholic church has expressed itself on the matter, Islam has always posited other intelligent beings (jinns for example) and some muslim scholars consider extraterrestrial life to be compatible with islam. Same for hudaism.

As for buddhism andi hinduism, I don't see why they would be incompatible with alien life.

Sadly, people with a literal-minded view of religion might have problems with that, but then, they already have problems with evolution and round earth.

Life outside Earth is not a binary question. Its a matter of probabilities, and with the vastness of the cosmos it would actually be very surprising if life did not exist anywhere else at all. But inside the solar system, its a different matter altogether. If we find life on Europa then it increases the chance that life is in many more places than we thought.

To your point, Kepler's recent announcement suggests the probability of tens of billions of Earth-like planets "just" in the Milky Way.


Just imagine if evidence of life is detected; it would drastically change our perception of our role in the universe.

Isn't it a well established fact that life outside of earth is possible? And in fact very likely given the size of the universe? That being said, I think it would be surprising to find another source of life within the same solar system. It would mean life is much more common than we originally thought.

This initiative came out of the Planetary Science Decadal Survey, and then got plus-upped by Congress.

As a European who has travelled to the US and back already I have to say that you don't need NASA to come here. Visa or a good passport plus a ticket for Deutsche Lufthansa is enough!

As someone who lives in London, England; I don't want to have to travel at all to reach Europa.

Why did they name it Europa anyway? Seems like it will cause all sorts of confusion amidst hilarious typos. "Scientists speculate about Europe's ability to support intelligent life." Perhaps we should rename it "Vulcan" or "Krypton" or some recognizably alien name to reduce the chances for misunderstanding.

The four Galilean moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto) all derive their names from lovers of Zeus in Greek mythology (who is Jupiter in Roman mythology). Zeus famously transformed himself into a bull and abducted Europa.

Europe as a continent name is pretty messy and incoherent from an etymological point of view – but most words are. Europa as a name for a moon of Jupiter makes a lot of sense.

English has the additional advantage of Europe (the continent) and Europa (the moon) being written differently. In, for example, German both are written the same (Europa).

(Zeus obviously has more than four lovers and other moons of Jupiter derive their names from those, as well as pretty much anyone who had anything at all to do with Zeus.)

The Galilean moons are all named after Zeus' lovers. They were named shortly after their discovery in the early 1600s by Simon Marius, a German astronomer who apparently discovered the moons independently of Galileo at roughly the same time as Galileo.

Then Europe, the continent, was defined later by this guy:


Huh? It's a geographical term for the mass of land that has been in use since the classical antiquity: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europe#Etymology

Similarly, "Asia" has been used since antiquity as a term for the Near East, but for almost all of that time it certainly did not refer to what we now call "the continent of Asia". Are you more likely to think of Asia as containing Syria or China?

The meaning at the time was not so inclusive though.

The Wikipedia article doesn't say anything about the story of the name of Europe. Do you have a link about it?

Not in English, sorry. He was the author of some kind of paper to defend that Russia was part of Europe, not Asia.

Edit: Oh, I'd read too fast. The history of the name is in the article for Europe that mnl linked above. This guy didn't invent the name that, as mnl noted, was used since... forever. He just happened to define what we call Europe today. In classical Greece it was used to mean the lands west and north of Greece. They didn't know of, let's say, Scandinavia.

And a little OT, but Jupiter's wife, Juno, is due to arrive in orbit this coming July 4th. [1] Juno was no shrinking violet [2]. Should make for an interesting telemetry stream...

[1] https://www.missionjuno.swri.edu/#/mission

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juno_(mythology)

It's not a typo. "Europa" is the original name of the goddes (or god's wife/girlfriend/whatever she was). And in quite a few european languages (like German) the actual word for the continent is "Europa" as well. So the problem is bigger than you thought.

> "Scientists speculate about Europe's ability to support intelligent life."

This would only be a problem though, if it wouldn't apply to all interpretations of "Europa".

> (or god's wife/girlfriend/whatever she was)


I didn't say it was a typo. I said it would make for some amusing typos.

John Culberson receives money from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, Orbital ATK and Northrop Grumman.

Whenever a US politician makes a statement, I look Why they made that statement - and the why is often that they get paid in campaign contributions to say precisely what their donors want them to say. Whether it's about foreign policy or anything else, it's easy to go on opensecrets.org and see who their donors are and thus why they made a statement.

Nothing is done in America's interests - it's done to stuff pockets full of cash and contracts. http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?cycle=201...

> Whenever a US politician makes a statement, I look Why they made that statement - and the why is often that they get paid in campaign contributions to say precisely what their donors want them to say.

I think this is a gross simplification - companies find politicians that are sympathetic to their positions to begin with, and then help finance those campaigns. I don't know about John Culberson specifically, but I'm quite sure that if you spoke to him or to numerous other politicians receiving the contributions you are complaining about - they would staunchly defend the positions they have adapted as being independent of donations. It's really not black and white.

But isn't that the same thing? Left just to the votes of the people and equal opportunity campaign investments, those candidates and those policies wouldn't get the power. You are describing that, instead, candidates are essentially put in power by companies, who are therefore still in effect buying policy. Then, the representatives are no longer representing the people but the money.

> But isn't that the same thing?

Sure, it is the same thing in practice - but it's not what OP is suggesting:

>> Who would want to admit they are guilty of being essentially corrupt?Of cooooourse they would find excuses. But it's incredibly naïve to say US politicians aren't influenced by money. They are all bought.

> Then, the representatives are no longer representing the people but the money.

The representatives are probably accurately representing the balance of power in US society, which is weighted towards economic/financial interests.

> The representatives are probably accurately representing the balance of power in US society, which is weighted towards economic/financial interests.

Obviously you are assuming that I'm pulling my statements out of thin air (or some other place where the sun don't shine :D ).

Here's a paper from Princeton University that essentially says that public opinion as almost ZERO effect on US policy:


If they have almost no effect than they have almost no power - isn't that tautological?

Also it should be noted the paper contrasts public opinion to 'organized interest groups':

> Our third and fourth theoretical traditions posit that public policy generally reflects the outcome of struggle among organized interest groups and business firms.

But in a number of cases organized interest groups are representative of a significant sector of public opinion (the NRA being one such example, or the ACLU is another).

Not having read the paper, I'd bet it has something to do with the fact that most American voters don't vote for any of the issues that concern them. Instead they just vote for the same party they've always voted for or the one their friends vote for. If most people consistently disregard their own interests when voting, they're bound to get something they don't want.

Even those people who aren't so consistent in their voting just vote for whoever the advertising tells them to, which favors the most well funded and thus most corrupt candidates.

Oh. If there's a paper, that settles it.

Who would want to admit they are guilty of being essentially corrupt?Of cooooourse they would find excuses. But it's incredibly naïve to say US politicians aren't influenced by money. They are all bought.

Do you, in all honesty, think that public schools getting closed, Wall Street getting bailed out instead of jailed for ruining an entire economy, medication being kept expensive, social security getting cut, pay day lenders getting more influence, having the shittiest labor laws in the world, or even Tesla being prevented from selling cars on the web has nothing to do with corrupt US politics?

In all honesty, sometimes I think that Americans DESERVE to be in all the troubles they are in today - they REFUSE to see the truths that are in plain sight. Americans, despite being on the fast track to hitting an economic and societal brick wall will always find excuses to defend the elite who are the obvious and very overt source of their troubles.

I'm still trying to figure out how you got to "America deserves to suffer..." from an article about nasa missions to Europa...

I suppose that is an inescapable fact of american politics and free markets in general- everything has a price and usually it is such someone makes a profit.

The fact that Boeing et all wants to sell more rockets does not make researching europa any less relevant, IMO.

It's not as if this congressman is being sold as a champion of human wisdom. Career politicians have other value and should not be judged as philosophers.

It would be a gross mistake to think of America as a free market. Zoning laws, for example were established to prevent immigrants and other less privileged people from acquiring property in better neighborhoods. There's a reason why rooms in a house have to be of a certain size and why some people can't plant vegetables in their own front yards - it's not for safety and it's not for beauty, it's to maintain an elite.


Wow, ya just can't please some people can ya.

Rather than get upset about how corrupt politics can be (and that's putting it mildly), what you're supposed to do is root for the version of corruption that appeals to your tastes.

Could you expand on your idea for those who are not bright enough to connect all the dots?

I can hardly believe Lockheed with Boeing investing into research over life in space research.

these companies make money when nasa sends stuff into space. If more stuff goes into space, they make more money. (the money comes out of the government's pocket in this case)

I'm not sure why this is a big deal especially when it has such scientistific value

To me, it's an issue of political deception. Corruption is one of the prime factors in political decay, and history shows that there's nothing good about political decay.

In the US, people are becoming increasingly tolerant of corruption. These days it more often invokes funny euphemisms than action. Politicians have innate incentive to fall into corruption, and it's expected that some of them do from time to time. But, it's the people's job to keep them in check.

If this country values funding science, then it should let the scientists determine where and how the money should be spent, not politicians, not lobbies.

The are two different models for judging someone's actions. Intent and outcome. OP is judging that his intent is bad even if the outcome is good - sometimes that is important to remember.

I'm as cynical as anyone. My heart is blacker than your soul could dream of.

But I think it's quite naive to look at campaign contributions as a dominant factor in the corruption of American society. It's a tempting scenario, and the numbers are visible, so it's easy to think they're important.

But reality is far more complex. And less conspiratorical.

Nothing is done in America's interests

"America" doesn't have interests, people have interests.

   Galileo... had a resolution of only about 10 meters per pixel.
   The spacecraft stored those images on a tape recorder with a 
   capacity of 114 megabytes, but a flawed rewind mode hampered 
   even that modest device
With the technology we have now, I'm surprised why we're not sending out a lot more tiny (therefore cheaper to launch) flyby probes across the solar system. Apart from the RTG and antenna, a probe today could probably be the size of a TV set.

> Apart from the RTG

You stated the problem: radionuclides used to supply said RTGs (Pu238) are in shortage (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1132236...) because with the fall of the Soviet Union there is no (big) demand for new nuclear weapons, and Pu238 was a "waste by-product" of producing nuke cores.

In late 2015 the US has demonstrated new production of PU 238 for RTG use at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory High Flux Isotope Reactor. This was undertaken in 2013 with NASA funding.


Cool. I hope this gets out of lab stage soon.

It will not leave the lab stage, it will continue to be produced at Oak Ridge. See https://www.ornl.gov/news/ornl-achieves-milestone-plutonium-...

A lot of the technology we have on earth wouldn't work in space due to radiation flipping bits


I thought I remembered reading that reducing the size of the devices, and therefor the cross-section, more than compensated for the increased susceptibility to bit flipping from a direct hit by a cosmic ray.

Worth pointing out that Representative Culberson (R-TX) represents Houston, TX, home of the Johnson Space Flight Center. There's a two dollar dollop of pork to go along with the nobility of science here.

Why is that worth pointing out?

Culberson represents the 7th district. NASA in Houston is on the other side of the city. Further, the Europa team is out of Pasadena, California - Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

You're over-reaching and then some.

My apologies for not replying sooner. I went to bed.

I hoped it might provide at least one person context for what might seem abnormal -- Congress mandating and funding a mission NASA was not actively pursuing via the political process. It's unfortunate but perhaps not unexpected that at least one person did not find value there, the internet being what it is.

Should Europa really be a top priority? The surface temperature is -160C and it receives 5400 mSv of radiation. Enough to kill a most life in a few hours. We barely have the technology to operate a robotics in that environment for short while. Even if there's some buggers under the ice, I think money would be better invested on developing space capabilities in more hospitable environments, such as bases on the Moon or Mar with ability to synthesize materials, food and fuel.

It sounds like an excellent opportunity to leap our robot technology forward and attempt something challenging.

Besides that, NASA has (almost) no choice. It's not coming at the expense of other projects, this is running on a budget that exists solely to go to Europa. It's being pushed forward as a pet project by John Culberson, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees NASA's budget. He's ensuring they get the extra funding necessary to make it happen.


I'm all for giving NASA more money for something that I assume is more difficult given the distance, hopefully it's spent well.

Am I the only one thinking that the fastest way to "find life" will be remote sensing? Imho, rather than throw billions at craft to sample dirt we should put that money into telescopes to detect evidence of life. I'm tired of probes staring at red rocks without ever finding anything interesting. I'd rather see a dozen space telescopes measuring the spectra of every body possible. I don't want microbes. I want to find dagobath.




Can the downvotes at least explain why I shouldn't be impressed?

I didn't downvote, but I found that your comment didn't add anything to the discussion. You said stuff about yourself, gave no new information, and invited polarizing comments.

You don't agree that it would be a good idea to figure out why a conservative would produce an incredibly rare vote for science?

Not only vote for science but promote science - not only science but taxpayer funded science without any immediate or guaranteed benefits to society?

We need to figure out why because I think we need a few dozen more like him.

The premise of your question is confused and unnecessarily inflammatory, and you provide no actual insight toward answering it.

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