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Thursday, April 24, 2014
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Quest for alien life might end on Earth
AD 2029. Twelve months of travel through the vast nothingness of space and years of research and development to make a craft suitable for this feat. It all comes down to the next few moments.
The bullet shaped hard-lander is ejected from the space probe. It’s 200 km to the surface. Straight down. Red flames, blue flames blaze around the heatshield-hot, hotter. Shockwaves smash the atmosphere. The atmosphere of Europa—one of Jupiter’s 63 moons—is thin, but compared to the vacuum of space it’s like molasses. It enters an icy world. Small rockets eject the heatshield.
Slow, slower, but still faster than the speed of sound, the hard-lander smashes into the planet’s surface of ice. With a deceleration force of 25,000g it penetrates three metres deep. It’s cold,—200C, but the radiation is hot: 5.4Sv (Sievert) per day. One Sievert carries with it a 5.5 per cent chance of developing cancer. A few hours here will result in radiation sickness, much longer—death.
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