I Am Moving to Europa and Nothing Can Stop Me

Europa, Europa. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute)

Europa, Europa. Jupiter’s most alluring moon. The disturbing lack of oxygen. The surface of solid water ice scoured by reddish fractures. A possible salt water ocean beneath the water ice that may contain two times the amount of water on Earth. An undoubtedly fantastic view of Jupiter in the sky. What more do you need? Nothing, and that is why I am moving to Europa without delay, and absolutely nothing can stop me.

Who is trying to stop me from moving to Europa? It would be better to ask who isn’t trying to stop me from moving to Europa. For one thing, I do not have my own private spaceship which, according to a large number of mid-twentieth century cartoons, I was supposed to have by the year 2000. But here it is, 2019, and I cannot walk into CarMax and trade in my Subaru Forester for a new spaceship to take me to Europa. What kind of world are we living in, anyway?

Some would suggest that I become an astronaut. This is an impossibility. First of all, I am bad at math, and apparently astronauts need to be good at math (ridiculous). Second of all, NASA and co. aren’t even planning on sending any astronauts to Europa! As of now, all that is planned for Europa is NASA’s Europa Clipper and the European Space Agency’s orbiter JUICE, which is also going to be exploring Jupiter, Ganymede, and Callisto. That’s right, not only is JUICE’s mission not focused solely on Europa, it is also named JUICE instead of the much more amusing JUICY. What is the point of space exploration, if not to have fun?

The lack of available transportation to Europa is hardly the only problem, however. Another problem is scientists’ insistence that Europa cannot support human life. High temperatures on Europa reach only -260º F, which scientists claim is too cold for humans. While I admit to not being a scientist, meteorologist, or even an astronaut, I have lived in the midwest my whole life, and I can confirm that -260º F is only slightly colder than a freezing cold January day. Europa also has way less oxygen in its atmosphere and way less gravity than Earth, which is problematic for a few reasons. Apparently, humans need oxygen to breathe. Less gravity, meanwhile, can result in bone loss. Astronauts stave off the bone loss with vigorous exercise, but we have firmly established the fact that I am not an astronaut.

While I’m not a scientist, engineer, construction worker, or even an astronaut, I do feel that these problems can be avoided by simply building a house, which I do very much intend to do. Just because I’ll be living on Europa doesn’t mean I’ll suddenly have a great urge to be outside (currently, I have no urge to be outside). My living room will have floor-to-ceiling windows facing the spot where Jupiter hangs on the horizon. It will also have oxygen. Where will this oxygen come from? I don’t know; I’m not a scientist. And if NASA can recreate weightlessness on Earth (or on an airplane, at any rate), then they can certainly recreate Earth’s weightfulness on Europa just so that my cat and I can live there.

The view from my living room’s floor-to-ceiling windows. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Of course, they could also just terraform the whole thing. People will argue against this, saying that while terraforming is definitely one idea being floated for solar system colonization, it is not something that humans are capable of with our current technology. Just last year, NASA stated that we aren’t even ready to terraform Mars. Fortunately, Mars is not Europa and NASA scientists are not freelance writers for scientific news websites. According to the latter group, the possibilities for terraforming Europa and the other Jovian moons are endless and, as it turns out, incredibly easy! Take note, NASA: that’s the kind of attitude regarding space colonization that I like to see.

The first step of terraforming is heating up the surface. One way to do this is to use orbital mirrors to focus sunlight onto Europa’s surface. Nice. Easy. Feasible. Environmentally friendly. The next option is to crash comets or meteors into the surface of Europa. To this I have to say that, given the recent news of an asteroid passing between Earth and its moon without being noticed by astronomers, I am a little bit skeptical of our ability to go flinging them into one of Jupiter’s moons. The final option will surprise no one who has any familiarity with humanity: we can just nuke it. Back in 2003, NASA chose to destroy the Galileo spacecraft by crashing it into Jupiter rather than risking the contamination of possible life on Europa, but now we’re just going to nuke the thing so that we can move on in.

Once whatever human-induced catastrophic event was complete, it would create a greenhouse effect, the compounds of which would mix with Jupiter’s radiation and create hydrogen and oxygen. Hooray! Alternatively, we could just avoid all of this and live in artificial shells, aka my house with floor-to-ceiling windows facing Jupiter. Again, I’m in no rush to go outside.

Your move, scientists. As you can see, I am moving to Europa and absolutely nothing can stop me. I don’t need to go outside once I’m there. I’m not afraid of losing bones, or of having to skip around like Armstrong and Aldrin just because there’s a teeny bit less gravity. If you look in my closet, you’ll find that I am well prepared for cold weather. As soon as I can trade in my Subaru Forester for a spaceship, I’ll be on my way.

Cat mom, librarian, and writer in Chicago.

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