Hey Bill Nye! How Will We Search for Life on Jupiter's Moon, Europa?
The mission to explore Europa, the moon of Jupiter with twice as much seawater as Earth, has entered "phase B," meaning the project now has funding from Congress.
Bill Nye, scientist, engineer, comedian, author, and inventor, is a man with a mission: to help foster a scientifically literate society, to help people everywhere understand and appreciate the science that makes our world work. Making science entertaining and accessible is something Bill has been doing most of his life.
In Seattle Nye began to combine his love of science with his flair for comedy, when he won the Steve Martin look-alike contest and developed dual careers as an engineer by day and a stand-up comic by night. Nye then quit his day engineering day job and made the transition to a night job as a comedy writer and performer on Seattle’s home-grown ensemble comedy show “Almost Live.” This is where “Bill Nye the Science Guy®” was born. The show appeared before Saturday Night Live and later on Comedy Central, originating at KING-TV, Seattle’s NBC affiliate.
While working on the Science Guy show, Nye won seven national Emmy Awards for writing, performing, and producing. The show won 18 Emmys in five years. In between creating the shows, he wrote five children’s books about science, including his latest title, “Bill Nye’s Great Big Book of Tiny Germs.”
Nye is the host of three currently-running television series. “The 100 Greatest Discoveries” airs on the Science Channel. “The Eyes of Nye” airs on PBS stations across the country.
Bill’s latest project is hosting a show on Planet Green called “Stuff Happens.” It’s about environmentally responsible choices that consumers can make as they go about their day and their shopping. Also, you’ll see Nye in his good-natured rivalry with his neighbor Ed Begley. They compete to see who can save the most energy and produce the smallest carbon footprint. Nye has 4,000 watts of solar power and a solar-boosted hot water system. There’s also the low water use garden and underground watering system. It’s fun for him; he’s an engineer with an energy conservation hobby.
Nye is currently the Executive Director of The Planetary Society, the world’s largest space interest organization.
Olwethu: Hi Bill. I'm Olwethu. I'm 16 years old from South Africa. My question is what are the future plans for the Europa trip and what instruments will be utilized to drill beneath the Earth's surface?
Bill Nye: So, the big news here in the United States is this mission to Europa, mission is what we call a spacecraft and all the people that work to support it. The mission to Europa is now in phase B. In other words, it's after phase A so it's been funded; there's money being spent selecting instruments for a spacecraft to go out to Europa, the moon of Jupiter with twice as much seawater as the Earth. And looking for signs of life is a tricky business because a spacecraft would be going very, very fast in order to get out there and get in orbit around Europa without just smashing into it.
So when you said the Earth's surface, I bet you meant the Europanian surface, the Europian surface. So along this line, I'm reluctant to call him our hero but there's a congressman in the U.S. Senate, in the U.S. Congress named John Culberson and he is a huge fan of sending a mission to Europa. He has a daughter who's 19, I believe, and he wants it so that she will know whether or not there is life on Europa, just like you. And so he has put in a congressional bill —this is here in the United States; this is the laws and regulations that provide money to NASA, the world's largest space agency — he has put money in there to make a lander for Europa. And in general the lander would be a thing with insect-looking legs and then some drill that gets really hot and melts through the ice. And the other plan they talk about all the time — they want to have a big, long tether, a big cable so this thing would melt through 20 kilometers of ice, like 15 miles of ice and look around in the Europanian ocean. It would be an extraordinary thing. Now this is a cool thing and we're very excited about it at the Planetary Society, but the drawback is humans being what they are and Congress being what it is here in the U.S., when something that ambitious or that expensive or that pricey is put in a bill, what often happens is the other side, the Senate, the U.S. government has two houses, just like lords and common and the other side will cancel that money set aside, but we'll see. Either way, there is a mission going to Europa and there is a proposal to make a very sophisticated, complicated lander to look for signs of life below the surface. The extraordinary, and I hope it happens while you're alive. I hope it does. Stay tuned.
The mission to explore Europa, the moon of Jupiter with twice as much seawater as Earth, has entered "phase B," meaning the project now has funding from Congress. Among the potential technological tools of the mission is a super-heated drill that would land on the moon's frozen surface and burrow through approximately 15 miles of frozen water, reaching the massive store of liquid water beneath. The mission is NASA's most ambitious attempt to find life in our solar system outside planet Earth.
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