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Welcome to the Objective Europa forum for general debate and discussions in areas related to a crewed mission to Jovian moon Europa. Suggestions and ideas in the forum will not be filed as part of the research in phase-I.

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Pages: 1
Author Topic: Crewed Thermal Penetrator Idea


stumpfian
Europa Dreamer
Posts: 3
Crewed Thermal Penetrator Idea
on: September 28, 2013, 21:50

The main objective of a mission to Europa would be to investigate the oceans we presume exist underneath the ice. Likewise the main danger with a mission to Europa is the radiation the surface is exposed to, at 540 rem, it is far beyond any reasonable mission tolerance. Radiation sickness can kick in as early as 75 rems in 30 days. So on approach we should aim to keep the crew's exposure at or below that. Obviously, this complicates staying on the surface for any length of time. We would have about three hours in this level of radiation before exceeding that limit, after which we would need to be shielded.

Since the primary mission objectives are subsurface however, the radiation danger provides a compelling case for a penetrator architecture, which could quickly put the crew under the protection of the planet's ice crust.

In the diagram attached I have presented a basic outline of a possible penetrator.
This concept would rely on a heated cylinder, (What material to construct this from is an important unanswered question. It will need to be highly thermally conductive, have a high melting point and also be strong enough to survive impact with the ice crust, probably at some speed.)

The submersible habitat would fit snugly inside of the penetrator tube for most of the mission, using it as additional radiation shielding from the standard solar radiation all interplanetary flights are exposed to.

The service module would make any final maneuvers, (Perhaps decreasing the speed of impact?) before jettisoning itself.

The penetrator will be heated at this point with energy from the habitat's generator(What temperature to heat it to is a question to be worked on.)

Just before contact with Europa, the penetrator tube would be filled with a gas (Which gas or gases is a question to be answered.)doing this will allow the tube to act as a piston, with the submersible habitat pushing down on the gas, compressing it, and converting the habitat's speed into heat for the penetrator tube.

When the penetrator makes contact with Europa it will melt it's way through the ice.(How quickly this melt through can be accomplished is an important question to work on.)

When the penetrator melts through the final layer of ice and into the subsurface ocean the penetrator tube will be decoupled from the submersible, which will now be free to explore the sub-surface ocean.

So, what are your thoughts? Is this a plausible idea? I'm going to try to work on answering some of the questions I've raised in it for myself, and I will update this post as I go along. If anyone else wants to contribute I welcome it!
Image



Narobii
Europa Dreamer
Posts: 22
Re: Crewed Thermal Penetrator Idea
on: September 29, 2013, 01:21

A question I generally have for all this is how do you maintain radio contact with earth while under the ice? Also would the ice tunnel freezing back up be a problem, or a necessity? since the insane pressure 10km of ice would create



stumpfian
Europa Dreamer
Posts: 3
Re: Crewed Thermal Penetrator Idea
on: September 29, 2013, 01:46

Radio contact is an interesting point. I have two main thoughts on that.

The first would be a series of relays, each encased in super tough shells to allow them to survive in whatever way the ice re-froze, and released every ____ m (depending on how far you could get the signal to reach through the ice.)

The second would be a long cable, unraveled as the craft dropped further and further.

I like the relays idea better, not the least because you could build redundancy into it. (release the relays at 50% of their maximum range so that if one fails you can bypass it.) but also because they could have limited data collection on board to record the conditions in the ice.



Bryan
Europa Astronaut
Posts: 98
Re: Crewed Thermal Penetrator Idea
on: September 29, 2013, 08:05

JPL estimates 7 to 14 receivers.

http://trs-new.jpl.nasa.gov/dspace/bitstream/2014/13332/1/01-2122.pdf



Narobii
Europa Dreamer
Posts: 22
Re: Crewed Thermal Penetrator Idea
on: September 29, 2013, 23:00

Just thinking but could the ice at the liquid ocean side become slushy? and would this pose troubles with a transmitter system?



stumpfian
Europa Dreamer
Posts: 3
Re: Crewed Thermal Penetrator Idea
on: September 30, 2013, 00:25

That's an interesting question Narobii, I'm no glaciologist so I don't have an answer to that yet.



Narobii
Europa Dreamer
Posts: 22
Re: Crewed Thermal Penetrator Idea
on: September 30, 2013, 00:43

It's what I'm best at. maybe a tether system since the slushy part should be fairly short if at all. Also it could vary from one spot to another.



Vicem
Europa Dreamer
Posts: 17
Re: Crewed Thermal Penetrator Idea
on: September 30, 2013, 15:32

Some reports suggest that there could be sub-surface lakes of water at only 3 km depth... Maybe this should be the primary target, as it would not only reduce drill time but also reduce amount of relays, etc.
Source:
http://planetary.org/blogs/emily-lakdawalla/2011/3266.html

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