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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2003 > Dec > Dec 11

NASA Spacecraft To Explore Jupiter Moons

From: Frank Warren <frank-warren@pacbell.net>
Date: Wed, 10 Dec 2003 08:57:21 -0800
Fwd Date: Thu, 11 Dec 2003 10:41:43 -0500
Subject: NASA Spacecraft To Explore Jupiter Moons



Source: Yahoo News

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=624&ncid=753&e=10&u=/ap/20031209/ap_on_sc/icy_moons

Tue Dec 9, 8:37 AM ET

NASA Spacecraft to Explore Jupiter Moons

By Andrew Bridges, AP Science Writer

SAN FRANCISCO - NASA (news - web sites) plans to dispatch a
hulking nuclear-powered spacecraft to determine whether three of
Jupiter's icy, planet-sized moons have the potential to harbor
life.

The Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter, or Jimo, would spend monthlong
stints circling the moons Callisto, Europa and Ganymede, which
are believed to have vast oceans tucked beneath thick covers of
ice.

The unmanned craft, far larger and more powerful than any other
sent to explore the outer solar system, would spend years
studying the moons' makeup, geologic history and potential for
sustaining life, as well as Jupiter itself.

Besides water, the moons appear to contain two other ingredients
necessary for life: energy and the right chemicals. Along with
Mars, they are considered the most likely places to have
extraterrestrial life within our solar system.

"We don't know if life is there. But this mission will allow to
ask that question with some pretty sound tools," said
Christopher McKay of the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration's Ames Research Center.

Jimo won't launch until at least 2011. On Monday, scientists at
the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union briefed
reporters on the mission's progress.

The spacecraft would be the first in a series of robotic NASA
probes that rely on uranium-fueled fission reactors to generate
large amounts of electricity. While probes such as Galileo and
Cassini have made do with hundreds of watts of electricity, Jimo
might have thousands of watts to power its thrusters and
instruments, said Torrence Johnson of NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory.

The reactor conceivably could produce enough electricity to
power several U.S. homes. That could provide Jimo a hundredfold
boost over previous missions in the amount of data it would be
able to beam back to Earth.

Jimo would carry high-resolution cameras and other instruments,
including radar and lasers to map the thickness and elevation of
the ice that envelops each moon.

Scientists are keen to study the Jovian system because of its
complexity. The planet and its stable of moons represent, in
many ways, a miniature solar system.

"These are worlds in their own right," said Ron Greeley, of
Arizona State University, Tempe.

The spacecraft is envisioned as being 60 to 100 feet in length.
Early conceptions place its nuclear reactor at the end of a boom
to shield the scientific instruments from radiation.

Jimo also would bristle with fins to dissipate the intense heat
from its reactor.

NASA is expected to begin stepping up use of nuclear power in
its exploration of the solar system, including Mars. There, it
could power rovers capable of roaming the planet for years at a
time.