URL: http://www.space.com/26905-jupiter-moon-europa-alien-life.html

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Quinn Roesch makes this connection here…

The new article “Jupiter’s Icy Moon Europa: Best Bet for Alien Life?” reports on the possibility of water, and life, on the surface of Europa, one of Jupiter’s many orbiting moons. It was published August 22, 2014 and summarizes numerous trips and data collected through satellite imagery that expose Europa as a possible water source.  This article presents an intriguing subject of looking further than Earth for natural resources.  It deals with the efforts in WRE associated with water pumps, distribution of water, conservation of water and sustainable usage. Previous space missions such as The Galileo spacecraft and images from NASA’s Hubble space telescope have decoded images that show the terrain of Europa to have water-slurry or melted ice and water vapor through erupting plumes (R. T. Pappalard et. Al). The internal structure of the moon is modeled to be an anhydrous rocky mantle; surrounding a metallic core. Around these layers is sought to be a thick layer of ice.  Beneath this ice it is believed there is water or subsurface lakes.  These subsurface lakes are thought to have greater volumes of water than contained in total on Earth.  The erupting water vapor geysers also indicate volcanic activity; which may provide vents aiding to bacterial life (Redd , 2014).  The subject of subsurface water and bacterial life is in fact directly correlated to WRE. The information provided in this article, and the journal article from 1999, show evidence of water on the surface of Europa. Although there may be resources available for human’s on this moon, as stated in the article, it will take multiple decades and life times of research and technology advances to tap into the water available for us on Europa.  This article presents to amazing features on Europa’s surface as set in stone fact; while in reality, all the discussion on subsurface lakes and water geysers are simply predictions and are not proven.

WRE implements designs, the application of equations, monitoring, modeling, and engineered solutions to hydraulic processes and challenges in order to improve the lives of humans.  The issues evaluated under the profession of WRE deal with economics, environmental, and societal focused situations.  This article presents a subject that encompasses all three sectors of human activity. As time goes on; resources available for human use are being depleted.  It is said that when I am the age of my parents; wars will be fought over water.  As we approach this era, it is important as engineers to develop ideas of how to solve the problem of finding water resources. Europa may be a viable choice in investigating for a source of fresh water and a moon compatible for the building blocks of human life (R.T. Pappalard et. al). Missions are collaborating with donors and funding corporations to begin further investigation of Europa’s surface.  As stated in the article, it is going to take decades and life times of research to demonstrate Europa as a potential answer to human’s problem of depleting resources through sample analysis and sublayer investigations (Redd, 2014).   Although there are technologies to desalinate sea water and water filtration apparatuses to recycle used water; another possible solution is looking further than earth for a source.  WRE will be applied in obtaining the water, transporting the water, and assuring the water if a viable resource for human consumption through various quality tests. This article is an eye opener to a world of opportunity our generation must begin turning to for answers; space.



Figure 1: Model representation of Europa’s internal structure


Figure 2: Size model representation of volume of water contained on Europa vs. Earth


Figure 3: Digital art representing a model of possible sub-surface lake


Images: http://www.space.com/13624-photos-europa-mysterious-moon-jupiter.html

Redd, Nola T.. “Jupiter’s Icy Moon Europa: Best Bet for Alien Life?”Space.com. 22 August 2014. <http://www.space.com/26905-jupiter-moon-europa-alien-life.html&gt;.

Pappalardo, R. T., et al. (1999), Does Europa have a subsurface ocean? Evaluation of the geological evidence, J. Geophys. Res., 104(E10), 24015–24055, doi:10.1029/1998JE000628.