Greetings, from outer space!
In the quest to explore other worlds scientists have taken special interest in Europa, a small moon of Jupiter’s covered in ice. It is rumored that a vast ocean lies beneath fifty miles of ice there. NASA’s goal: send a probe beneath the ice to investigate.
However, it is another Jovian moon that has captured my attention: Ganymede.
Ganymede is the largest moon in our Solar System and another potential candidate for life. As such it will also be thoroughly explored in future missions, having already been scoped out by Voyager.
However, I believe Ganymede should be receiving just as much attention as icy Europa. Below are five reasons why scientists should make Ganymede their next big priority and perhaps their number ONE candidate for human colonization.
First, Ganymede is larger than our moon and has sufficient gravity. This greater land area and significant gravitational pull offers a much more hospitable place for rovers to roam than the radiation-pelted, icy surface of Europa. Rovers could collect data, soil samples, etc. with much greater ease than the aforementioned Jovian moon. (check out this cool book about living on Ganymede’s surface: Terraforming Ganymede with Robert Heinlein)
Second, Ganymede has its own water. Scientists theorize that beneath the rocky surface lies a saltwater ocean, and below that probable ice. The presence of a saltwater ocean was theorized when scientists noticed fluctuations in the magnetic field. Such fluctuations, they posit could only be due to moving saltwater reacting with the ions around the planet. A huge saltwater ocean not only offers a great resource to mine from this moon but also offers the potential to house life.
Third, Ganymede is out of the dangerous radioactive zone surrounding Jupiter. Europa is within a deadly area that is bombarded by radioactivity from Jupiter’s magnetosphere. The tiny moon is so close to the colossal planet that the surface is uninhabitable to a theoretical future human base (without a massive lead shielding). Ganymede however is far enough from Jupiter to where that is not a problem. Rovers, and someday astronauts, need not fear the Jovian radiation on Ganymede.
Fourth, Ganymede has its own magnetic field. Granted, this field is about 1% the strength of Earth’s. But, this should not be a con. The presence of a magnetic field offer much in the way of establishing communication and much needed research on the massive moon. The fact that Ganymede is out of Jupiter’s danger zone and far enough from the Sun make the weakness of the magnetic field a non-issue. Sounds of Ganymede’s magnetosphere
Finally, the top reason why scientists must investigate Ganymede is the presence of an atmosphere. For a moon bigger than our Moon it presents a paradox; Ganymede has weaker gravity than our moon yet it has an oxygen atmosphere. This phenomenal fact makes establishing a lunar base there hundreds of times easier than Europa or any other moon in our solar system. I posit that a lunar base producing heat and carbon dioxide make terraforming Ganymede easier than terraforming Mars. We can slowly terraform this mighty moon by chemical processes that combined with its atmosphere, gravity and magnetic field make this a top priority for NASA.
In conclusion I believe that Ganymede deserves as much attention as Europa for these amazing traits and it deserves first priority in regards to Terraforming.