By the time November 20th rolled around, there were probably quite a few Medium users looking at their feeds, perplexed. Perhaps a wrinkle of concern creased their brows. “Where is she?” they thought. “Surely she could not let this most momentous of occasions pass her by!”
Two days previously, on November 18th, NASA had announced that a research team at Goddard Space Flight Center had detected water vapor above the surface of everyone’s favorite Jovian moon, Europa. While they cannot say for certain that the vapor is coming from an ocean, the discovery does at least suggest that the vapor is coming from liquid water underneath Europa’s surface. Finding liquid water anywhere in the universe besides Earth is, of course, a big freaking deal. Finding it on Europa, a location long suspected of having liquid water, is an even bigger freaking deal. Basically, this was the Europa news of the year. No self-respecting Europa enthusiast could let it go by uncelebrated.
The abovementioned perplexed and possibly concerned Medium users are my fans, of whom, I assure you, there are many. Just, you know, loads. And one thing that any of my many, many fans can tell you about me is that I am a Europa enthusiast. I just love Europa and, more than that, I love writing irreverent articles about Europa on a popular blogging platform for emotional validation. In fact, I feel pretty safe in saying that, among Europa experts who also happen to be 28-year-old female librarians in Chicago who own one piebald cat, drive a blue Subaru (a Blubaru, if you will), and whose only scientific research into Europa consists of reading popular science articles on the subject, I am probably at the top of my field. So I can understand the concern that many must have felt when the announcement of water vapor on Europa came and went sans any riveting or groundbreaking commentary from yours truly. And I do apologize.
To be clear, I saw the news when it broke. I saw it because I am devoted to Europa and because I live on Twitter. My first thought upon reading it was, “Yes! Water! Neat.” My second thought was that I should pack an emergency bag for myself and my one piebald cat, as we may have to be ready to relocate to Europa at any moment. My third thought was that it would be pretty emotionally validating to write a post about the discovery on a popular blogging platform and have people enjoy it. I saved the many articles on the major discovery and promised myself that once Turkey Worship Day had passed, I would sit down and write said post. Now, over a month later, I am happy to say that Turkey Worship Day has passed, and I am finally writing that article. You’re welcome.
Before we go any further: Liquid! Water! On a place not called Earth! Like, actual liquid water, as opposed to liquid water that has been frozen for approximately ninety billion years. I mean, sure, the surface of Europa is frozen, but underneath that is liquid water! Water! Oxygen and sources of energy are a dime a dozen, but water? That’s the ticket. I did not need any further convincing to move to Europa, of course, but the confirmation that there is probably, most likely, some water there somewhere is definitely heartening. My piebald cat loves to drink out of the sink and bathtub, and it would be a shame for him to have to give up that habit once we relocate to the moon of another planet.
Of course, for every major scientific discovery, there is a handful of naysayers who want to rain on the parade. Apparently, water in Earth’s atmosphere can distort readings of water vapor on distant planets, blah blah blah. Basically, nothing will be certain until NASA finally gets around to launching the Europa Clipper, which will not be until about the mid 2020s. That’s what the experts say, anyway. While I’m not an astronaut, and I certainly don’t understand a single thing about “science” or “math,” I do plan on moving to Europa sooner than the mid 2020s, which means that I will be able to confirm the water geysers as soon as I arrive.
Contrary to what my title may suggest, I would not build a water park on Europa. I do not like swimming. I also have exceedingly pale skin that has been severely sunburned much more often than is healthy, and I have no doubt that I am perfectly capable of getting sunburned on the surface of Europa. That said, if other colonizers want to start a water park on Europa, so be it. You will not have any business competition from me. I will also not swim at your water park, but if you sell nachos I will probably wander over and buy them. Or perhaps just GrubHub them. I do not see any need to leave the beautiful and lightly haunted Victorian mansion that I plan to build.
So what does this all mean? Essentially, this: There could be life on Europa. It could be just bacteria and some cute little fishies, or it could be an advanced aquatic species who live in an underwater world à la Disney’s The Little Mermaid. I think it’s safe to say that it’s probably the latter. And since I don’t swim, I don’t have to worry about talking to them about anything. Will they be mad when someone builds a water park? Maybe, but it’s not my water park. I am an American, and I refuse to apologize for any atrocities I may commit or Victorian ghosts I may introduce to the environment while colonizing space. After all, it’s all in the name of science. I think that Galileo would be proud.