Why Jupiter’s Moons Could Be the Key to Becoming a True Interplanetary Species

Can you imagine your grandchildren moving to the moons of Jupiter?
jupiter moons

Today there are even more reasons to be interested in leaving Earth and living in outer space or on a moon by Jupiter.  As wars rage over resources on Earth, people working for space agencies continuously focus their attention on the potential of the wealth of resources to be found in space.

The Babylonians observed Jupiter some 2,800 years ago.  Later Galileo observed the moons of Jupiter in 1610.  Humanity has had a long fascination with Jupiter and its moons.  Jupiter and its moons make up the Jovian system.

As researchers start to look more into how humans can become an interplanetary species and access raw materials in space, space agencies have become particularly interested in the moons around Jupiter that have water.  The moons around Jupiter that have water include Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede.

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europa
Europa by NASA

Researchers have surmised that these moons have everything needed to build fuel depots.  There is plenty of ice water that can be used for drink, agricultural irrigation, and the manufacture of oxygen and fuel.  Other scientists have calculated that when it rains on Jupiter, it rains diamonds.  Jupiter has at least 80 observed satellites (meteors/moons) around it that can be potentially mined for precious metals.

NASA’s planned Clipper Mission to the Jupiter moon Europa was a direct result of scientists and members of the Planetary Society petitioning congress.  As more space budget becomes available, the moons of Callisto and Ganymede will also be explored as places of significant interest.

More powerful and more affordable space rocket propulsion technology

Frequent visits to the Jovian System can be considered a real potential possibility as NASA improves its technologies and reduces the costs of its contractors.

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791px Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter 2
Icy Moons Orbiter by NASA

NASA has already commenced the creation of the equipment for the CLIPPER mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, due to arrive in 2030. 

Currently, NASA is researching creating more powerful rocket technology using nuclear rockets, including nuclear-thermal and nuclear-electric propulsion, and using cheaper contractors such as SpaceX.

With more powerful propulsion technology, NASA hopes that it will be able to reduce estimated travel times to Jupiter down from between 5 and 7.5 years to just 1000 days (approximately 2.74 years)!

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Stops along the way

Although the moons of Jupiter are a long way away, it is possible that in the future, spacecraft will be able to make stops along the way. 

More companies are considering the feasibility of building space stations and mining asteroids.  Between Jupiter and Mars is a Dwarf planet called Ceres. There has also been much consideration of humans living in floating habitats around Ceres and mining the asteroid belt.

Ceres black background
Ceres by Pablo Carlos Budassi under CC BY-SA 4.0

Companies are greedily eying the asteroid belt around Ceres, which is long believed to have asteroids that contain precious metals, including nickel, cobalt, gold, nickel, platinum, and rhodium.  When this finally happens, a whole service industry providing services and mid-way service stops for spacecrafts is likely to spring up.  NASA is already studying the feasibility of how astronauts can make their own propulsion fuel while in space.

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Astronomers may be able to look forward one day to get their Big Mac at a service station stop between Jupiter and Mars.  NASA is already looking into how it can scale up crop growth in space so space populations can be more self-sufficient and have a more varied diet.

Challenges of becoming a dweller on the moons of Jupiter

Apart from the fact that with current propulsion technology, it can take between 5 and 7.5 years to reach Jupiter from Earth, no human has ever gone into the Jovian system yet, and no space equipment has ever returned.

None of the atmospheres studied in the Jovian system are breathable by lifeforms on Earth or dense enough to retain heat.  Therefore settlements would likely be artificial habitats.

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High radiation levels in places may prove to be a headache to health and safety HR planning.  In terms of radiation threat, Callisto is the only moon with radiation levels estimated to meet the requirements for the health and safety of astronauts.

Callisto is the most heavily cratered moon in the Jovian system; cautious people may wonder if it is a good long-term prospect to settle there.

Outer space isn’t a place for the cautious.  There will be people in the future willing to brave the dangers and reap the potential lucrative rewards of mining materials in outer space.

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Feature image credit: the four Galilean moons