Wired has recently compiled a list of possible places to look for life elsewhere in our solar system. Useful for thinking about the next space missions to be planned. The list includes Enceladus (6th largest moon of Saturn), Europa (a moon of Jupiter and the 6th largest moon in the solar system), Mars (a strong contender with its methane bursts), Titan (largest moon of Saturn), and Io (a Jovian moon that has an atmosphere). I’m not sure I would have included Io in this list as it is such a long shot, but if one wanted to pick at least 5, sure, why not?
Interestingly, the radiation from Jupiter’s magnetosphere that makes prospects for Io seem so bleak may be good news for Europa. As charged particles and ions traverse the ice on Europa, evidence shows that some interesting chemistry may occur. Chemistry that may have interesting implications on getting life started.
Europa has long been a favorite target destination of mine. Most unfortunately, JIMO, JPL’s Icy Moons Project was cancelled, last I heard. A bitter disappointment. As the new administration starts to shape direction for further U.S. involvement in space, there are 3 projects that should be on the table. Solar powered satellites (a prototype at least), a trip to Mars to establish whether or not there is life, and the resurrection of the Icy Moons Project (or something bigger) to further explore Europa.