From Mars to Callisto
Unless you live under an impressively sized rock, you will of heard of the recent landing of NASA’s Curiosity Rover on Mars. But what are the possibilities for human exploration beyond the Red Planet?
As the rover Curiosity continues to send back a wealth of fascinating data, and possibly evidence that Mars once harboured life, it is only natural that we begin to think forward to the possibilities of human travel to the Red Planet and beyond. There are many who believe that we should be well on our way to Mars already,1 but for whatever technical, financial or political reasons we are still decades away from achieving that milestone in human exploration. Nevertheless, the thought of human colonisation of Mars opens our minds to the other amazing places within our solar system that human feet may one day take their first steps.
For example, imagine looking up at the sky from Callisto, Jupiter’s furthest Galilean moon, and seeing before you not only the awe-inspiring gas giant dominating your view, but also the transient masses of the other Galilean moons Io, Europa and Ganemede. A human base on this distant rock is not entirely out of the question and it has been considered as a potential location for a human outpost for the exploration of Jupiter’s other moons and the further reaches of solar system 2. Both Europa and Callisto show evidence for the presence liquid water beneath their surfaces and oxygen in their thin atmospheres, making them possible candidates for harbouring life. While Ganemede’s larger size (twice the mass of our moon) might make it more gravitationally comfortable for humans, Callisto’s greater distance from Jupiter’s radioactive emissions make it somewhat safer in that regard… and the view is better.
Sadly, despite our collective human desire for adventure, and the fact that even now all this is largely within our grasp technically (and will only become more so), it will take a suitable political climate and the right financial incentives before any lucky astronaut will have the pleasure gazing up at that Jovian sky for the first time.