Carl Sagan‘s Cosmos made me dream of strange worlds when I was young. I wanted to believe – and still want – the Drake equation evaluates to several googolplexes. There must be life out there. I precisely recall each chapter of the book, each picture and artist’s representation, as well as every historical nugget it contains.
With its 60+ moons, Jupiter, the gas goliath, is a condensé of this diversity with many paradoxes. For instance, the giant’s gravity pull shielding our planet from outer visitors is also brutalizing its moons by exposing them to terrible gravitational tides. I genuinely felt for the volcanic Io, the frozen Europa, the massive Ganymede, or the dead Callisto. No way you could survive such an environment. Maybe a peaceful floater? 😊
Fast forward fifty years, and we will know more about Europa’s secrets! Indeed, NASA’s Europa Clipper mission will carry an impressive array of instruments to Jupiter to seek conditions or signs of life in Europa’s oceans beneath its icy surface. I can’t wait!
If, like me, you want to be part of the almost two billion miles trip, send your name, along with “In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa” by Ada Limón, etched onto microchips to Europa (here). I can’t wait for April 2030.
Live From the Clean Room – Building Europa Clipper
A Poem for Europa by U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón