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The First Manned Mission to Jupiter's Moon Will Be Crowd-Researched

Like so many great leaps for mankind, getting a human to Europa, where extraterrestrial life is deemed most possible, must begin with a small step. And Kristian Von Bengston, the Danish rocketeer behind Objective Europa, is going for it.
Ben Richmond
Κείμενο Ben Richmond
Objective Europa on the drawing board, courtesy of founder Kristian von Bengtson

Like so many great leaps for mankind, getting a human to one of Jupiter’s moons must begin with a small step. And Objective Europa is aiming to do exactly that. A small team—architects, futurist designers, private space pioneers and even Jacques Cousteau's son—is beginning the planning stage to send human beings on a one-way trip to the Jovian moon Europa.


The effort is headed up by Kristian Von Bengston (pictured right), the founder of Copenhagen Suborbitals, an open-source DIY space program based in his native Denmark. And he's quite serious about transporting a man or woman beyond our atmosphere, Mars and the asteroid belt.

Before they launch any spacecraft, they're launching a crowd-funding campaign. You can't apply to go farther—and inevitably to die farther away—than anyone ever has before quite yet. They're not leaving in the next decade, but maybe 30 years from now? Maybe 50? "If nobody start this research, you’re not going to go anywhere," said Bengtson. "So hopefully that’s what this project can begin."

While it isn’t Jupiter’s biggest moon, lately Europa has been getting all of the attention. The NASA probes that flew through the Jovian system in the ‘70s revealed that ice-covered Europa is one of the smoothest objects in the galaxy. Despite being over five times farther from the Sun than the Earth, scientists speculate that beneath the icy surface of Europa, there might be liquid oceans, warmed by underwater volcanoes and friction from the pull of Jupiter’s gravity.

And where there's liquid water, there’s the possibility of finding life. This has NASA eager to launch a probe as soon as 2022 to check it out and also has Objective Europa eager to send people there.

“It’s the one body in the solar system that has the biggest potential for extraterrestrial life,” said Bengtson. “It’s where you want to go.”


He explained, “You can’t go to Venus because there’s 500 bars of pressure and acid rain. Forget about it. Mars is just so last millennium. It’s just boring; it’s desert. So where else to go? The next step is Jupiter and there you’ve got this beautiful ice planet.”

Europa on the right, with fellow moon Io on the left and Jupiter in the background, taken by Voyager 1, via Wikimedia Commons.

Bengtson is a Danish “space-architect” and designer by education, who has worked with NASA and blogs for Wired. As we spoke, it became clear that the complexity of reaching and exploring Europa—that is, sending someone hundreds of millions of miles, landing on the icy surface, bursting through and exploring the watery world below—was part of the appeal.

When I asked him “Why Europa?” he talked about the possibility of life for a while before admitting “And also I just think it’d be cool. 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?” From a design and engineering standpoint, it’s hard not to agree.

Read the rest over at Motherboard.