Exobiology is a multidisciplinary field of study which explores the origin of life on earth and other planets. The human race has been interested in the origin and possibility of life on the other planets and moons. Reflectively, myths and beliefs exist on views of the universe components.
The core belief of exobiologists is that all matter in the solar system has a common origin as a component of myriad changes in the form of primordial stellar matter. Thus, this reflective paper attempts to weigh the gains in knowledge about exobiology against the risks of contamination should technological advancement penetrate onto the surface Europa moon on the orbit of Jupiter planet.
A continuous excitement has been witnessed in the resent past following a revelation that there might be a large mass of water body on its surface. It is natural to wonder about the kind of life in this water body and possibilities of microbial activities or aquatic fauna. The Europa Ocean has an ecosystem which is not fully self-sustaining like that on planet Earth.
Presuming an existence of tons and tons of ocean vents such as those spread across the ocean floors on planet Earth, there is a strong possibility of bacterial activities. These bacteria survive mainly on gases containing sulfur. Besides, there would be alien worm-like tiny creatures alongside clams directly depending on the nutrients made available by bacterial activities just like fungi and mosses plants common beneath the sea bed across the major water bodies on planet Earth’s surface (Greenberg 27).
To complete the food chain, unusual fish like creatures might exist to feed on these plants and smaller creature. Being to far away from the life supporting planet Earth, Europa’s ocean might lack planktons. Just like on the oceans across our planet, there is a strong possibility of finding dominant specie of a sea animal on top of the food chain (Greenberg 53). This might be due to variance in size, aggression, and other natural selection orientations same as those practiced by the Orca, commonly referred to as the apex predator.
After the successful unmanned NASA voyage to planet Jupiter in 1979, a Galilean moon called Europa was discovered. The visit proposed an existence of a planet-wide water body beneath hundreds of miles sulfur cover. In the images captured, Europa has magnetic and tidal characteristics and an icy surface.
Despite being a hostile environment for survival, for instance, there is no visible sunlight penetration, the surviving creatures might have evolved to rely on smell, electric fields and touch to sense variance in surrounding. Photosynthetic plants are incapable of surviving in such conditions. Thus, to cover up, the primary ecosystem producers would be bacterial organisms feeding on chemical emissions from the bottom of the ocean (Greenberg 51).
After the publishing of the futurist view of Europa Ocean, it is in order to ascertain existence of life in this water body. Penetrating the surface of Europa into this section would seriously contaminate the atmosphere and alter survival of the alien creatures. Reflectively, drilling into the ocean bottom would release the tens of miles sulfur gas layer on to the surface of Europa.
Consequently, this is likely to directly affect bacteria colony and catalyze viral organism mutations. In the end, destructive radiation levels would certainly increase beyond the current levels as the populations of bacteria expected to breakdown the sulfur gas would not cope up with the quantities of emitted gas.
Also, the balance between fluorine and silicon components of this ecosystem might experience un-proportional energy input. In the end, there may be in existence another form of slow life due to increased radioactive levels. As a matter of fact, the cycle of complete digestion and degeneration of one form of life supporting component might end up being the silicon fluoride (Greenberg 81).
Since there is not evidence of existence of energy beneath the sulfur cover, breaking of this crust might open up way for some complex chain of molecular reaction capable of multiplying when in contact with energy. As a result, a chain of untested reaction might abruptly occur with dire consequences on the stability of the ecosystem.
Though this reaction and reengineering may be different from that in RNA and DNA, it might be in the form of hydrocarbon pollution. Before breaking the crust, the layers of this frozen sulfur consists of floating molecules which can easily react with foreign energy producing material in the simplest form of chemical fusion. The result may be complex and probably self destructive (Jacques 19).
Considering the fact that scanty knowledge exist on this expedition, the mission would be operational on guess work. The mission would be ignorant on the unlimited possibilities of activating a fermented energy fostered by the hostile and unique environment. There could be giant alien creatures swimming in the dark enclosure of this ice covered ocean equivalent of dolphins, Wales, and plesiosaurs. There might be rival intellectual life covered in this darkness.
Human beings lack the tools to determine such possibilities. Thus, the mission might be very risky in an attempt to know the ecosystem beyond the dark and deep world surrounded by a continuous landmark of frozen sulfur. The pressure of rushing gases through the opening created by human drills would leave innumerable ridges of pressure lines accompanied by deadly radiations as the gases escape into the atmosphere.
Though this mission is essential in furthering knowledge into the surrounding world, it is important to appreciate the fact that mankind is intruding an environment which has not been interrupted since its formation. Since there are no known infrared reflectors on the predominantly organic grounds, scientific advancement might provide a solution for the same (Hornbeck 23).
Through the space technology, scientists, especially planetary scientists and exobiologists, are engaged in a search for earth-like planets that may have the capacity to support life.
It is through knowing how abundant such planets are that they are able to make informed decisions about where to search for extraterrestrial intelligence and what the basic chances are of finding intelligent life beyond humans’ own solar system.
Should it emerge that life is extremely rare in Europa, the future generation has a solemn responsibility of ensuring that the entire universe and its precious biological heritage is preserved.
On other hand, if life is found to be abundant throughout the galaxy then the future generations should strive to learn from its existence and ultimately become part of a galactic family of conscious and intelligent beings. And this exploration will finally answer scientifically the question: are we alone in this vast universe? However, the risks involved may be catastrophic as scientific studies on this moon are scanty and unreliable. Despite the risks of contamination, the benefits are long-term.
Jacques, Arnold. Icarus’ Second Chance: The Basis and Perspectives of Space Ethics. New York: Springer, 2011. Print.
Hornbeck, George. “Life Sciences: Exobiology”. Proceedings of the symposia of COSPAR Scientific Commission .Spec. issue of Birmingham Scientific Publication Journal 22.3, (1998): 21-25. Print.
Greenberg, Richard. Europa: the ocean moon: search for an alien biosphere. New York: Springer, 2005. Print.