Carbon, one of the conditions for the existence of life, was found on the moon Europa. The moon orbits the gas planet Jupiter and is covered by a layer of ice kilometers thick. “We see that there is a thick layer of ocean water under this ice. Carbon has now been found on the ice, and it is suspected that it comes from ocean water,” says Rob van den Berg, a space expert at the Sonneborg Observatory.
Exploring ocean waters can be quite a challenge. “This layer of ice is kilometers thick. You’re not just drilling a hole in it. There are probably geysers and you can get to them,” says van den Berg. A preliminary investigation into the formation will be carried out by the Europa Clipper, a satellite probe. For the European Space Agency (ESA), which will fly near the moon.
On Sunday, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will return to Earth carrying a kilogram of material from the Bennu space rock. In October 2020, a sample was taken from the asteroid, after which the spacecraft returned to Earth. “The intent is for OSIRIS-REx to deliver a capsule. It lands by parachute in the Utah desert,” explains van den Berg.
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Delivery is a complex process in which the various steps must go exactly right. “If it goes too steeply toward the ground, it burns up in the atmosphere, and if it doesn’t go sharp enough, it bounces off the atmosphere like a pebble. The parachute also won’t be able to open,” Van den Berg describes.
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