Enterprise & Europa
The Enterprise was piloted on its first free flight on August 12th, 1977. Astronauts Fred Haise and Gordon Fullerton guided the Shuttle to a safe landing on the dry lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
Listen to episode 90 of The Space Shot to get history on the Shuttle Enterprise and other ships to bear the name.
The pictures here are from some of the first free flights of Enterprise. The later flights were conducted without the tail-cone to ensure the Shuttle could land in its flight configuration.
On August 13th, 1996 NASA announced that the Galileo spacecraft captured images that suggest Europa may harbor liquid water.
More recently, data gathered by the Galileo spacecraft has been analyzed and this data now suggests that the spacecraft possibly flew through a water plume emanating from the moon’s surface. In addition to the Galileo data, the Hubble Space Telescope has observed water vapor emanating from Europa.
Scientists estimate that Europa may hold twice the amount of water, under its icy crust, as Earth has in all its oceans.
The tidal forces exerted on Europa from Jupiter could warm these sub surface oceans. This could create the conditions for life as we currently understand it to exist in Europa’s vast oceans.
The proposed Europa Clipper mission could study these plumes and this enigmatic moon in greater detail. This spacecraft won’t launch until at least the mid 2020’s.
Learn more about the proposed mission here.
The third picture in today’s post shows Europa as seen by the Galileo spacecraft. The last is a closeup of the icy surface of the moon.
The Galileo spacecraft was launched in October of 1989 by the Shuttle Atlantis. Learn more by listening to episode 91 of The Space Shot.
Picture credits- NASA.