Elon Musk Wants to Send the SpaceX Dragon Capsule to Europa
Researchers just proved that Saturn's moon Enceladus is home to a global ocean, making it a prime candidate for alien life. But prior to this discovery, the satellite that was arguably of most interest to astrobiologists was Jupiter's moon Europa, which is also host to a subsurface ocean. Now, Elon Musk wants to send his Dragon capsule to Europa for research purposes and to look for extraterrestrial life:
In expendable mode, Falcon Heavy can send a fully loaded Dragon to Mars or a light Dragon to Jupiter's moons. Europa mission wd be cool.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 14, 2015
NASA believes it is likely that Europa's subsurface ocean contains alien life forms. They have already planned an exploratory mission to Europa, tentatively scheduled for the 2020's, but it would only be sending robotic rovers. If Musk has his way, he may be sending humans to planetary bodies like Europa and Mars; according to SpaceX, the Dragon capsule will be able to carry "a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel" in orbit around Earth.
Musk suggested a Europa mission in response to NASA researchers' proposal to use the Dragon for a Mars sample mission. According to the researchers, the Dragon would launch in 2022 and would collect samples with the Mars 2020 rover. The mission, called "Red Dragon," is only in the concept stage, but SpaceX is confident that the technology will be ready by 2020 and that they will be able to facilitate the full analysis of Martian soil, and possibly the discovery of ancient life forms.
Planetary scientist Emily Lakdawalla reacted with some enthusiasm:
But some scientists, such as Lars Osborne, a mechanical engineer at Spaceflight Industries, reacted with more skepticism: