Associate Professor Dr. William B. Moore and a group of investigators from Virginia Tech initiated the “Exploration of Under-Ice Regions with Ocean Profiling Agents” (EUROPA), which just received a $100,000 grant from NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts Program. (NIAC)
Europa is also the name of the moon associated with planet Jupiter, and contains three times the water of all the earth’s oceans.
Moore’s plan is to determine the possibility of life on this moon by building a robotic underwater glider, capable of penetrating Europa’s surface and surveying the liquid water beneath.
“Europa’s ocean has three times the water of all of Earth’s oceans combined and may be salty or even acidic,” stated Moore. “To find out if life ever arose there, we must send vehicles capable of exploring such a vast, unknown space. Perhaps we will discover that most living things dwell in the darkness of deep oceans on icy worlds like Europa. That would indeed make us special and help us to understand our place in the universe.”
This project was selected out of 28 proposals as the winner of the NIAC grant award. It prevailed through a peer-review process based on innovation and feasibility.
Moore believes studying this moon will help us to make discoveries about our own planet. “It is sometimes very hard to understand something when there is only one of it. The Earth is like that; it is unique in many ways, and we would like to understand what makes it so special,” stated Moore. “We want to know how it came to be and how rare it is. So we explore other planets, particularly those that might support life, in order to understand our own and life’s special place on Earth.”