Segments in this Video

Search for Extraterrestrial Life (01:41)


Scientists investigate how rare our planet is in the universe. Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, may be home to alien microbes. (Credits)

Europa's Ocean Mystery (01:46)

Jupiter's moon is 493 million miles from earth. Its ice may hold life; scientists have wanted to land a craft on its surface since Voyager passed by in 1979.

Europa Mission (01:50)

Humans can't survive the journey to Jupiter's moon. Explorer Bill Stone is working on an autonomous underwater system called Endurance.

Europa Mission Simulation (01:53)

Stone envisions how his space probe will land on Jupiter's moon in 2048. After touchdown, autonomous technology will take over life finding operations.

Europa Mission Proving Ground (01:41)

Stone's team transports Endurance to Antarctica in 2008, to find out how it operates in extreme cold.

Underwater Robot Test (02:46)

Stone's team tests whether Endurance can explore under the Antarctic ice and find its way back.

Deep Sea Ecosystem (02:50)

In 1977, scientists discovered hydro thermal vents 8,000 feet below the surface. Life thrived around the chemical energy sources, proving sunlight wasn't necessary for survival.

Jupiter's Moons (01:37)

Galileo orbited Jupiter in the '90s, studying its 60 satellites. Europa lies between fiery Io and freezing Callisto.

Europa's Surface (02:38)

Galileo photographs revealed an ocean 60 miles deep under an ice crust. The moon's core is likely metallic with rock layers in contact to water—potential life supporting conditions.

Tidal Heating (02:21)

Hear an explanation of how Europa "flexes" as it orbits Jupiter on an elliptical path, producing heat and cracking the ice. Heat escapes the rock layer through hydro thermal vents.

Stardust Mission (03:14)

Life supporting molecules were found on a comet in 2004. Learn about the spacecraft's procedure for collecting tail particles. The amino acid glycine suggests life could be everywhere in the universe.

Extraterrestrial Bacteria Implications (01:16)

Only microbes are likely to survive on Europa—but they would prove we are not alone in the universe, and microbes are the origins of complex life.

Extremophiles (01:21)

Microbes thriving in harsh conditions show that live can exist in improbable places—including Europa.

Life Energy Requirements (01:42)

Some scientists are skeptical that life forms can exist in Europa's low energy environment. However, cold planets may be the norm and humans the rarity in the universe.

Europa Environmental Simulation (01:52)

Astrobiologist Kevin Hand explains that low temperatures and Jupiter radiation make the surface uninhabitable. However, the subsurface

Infrared Signature (01:46)

By analyzing reflective colors, a NASA scientist has found red deposits on Europa. A radiation resistant microbe matches the spectrum, suggesting the color represents life forms.

Europa Mission Challenge (01:37)

Europa's most fertile environment may be below the ice. Getting a spacecraft to the moon will be one of humanity's greatest technological feats.

Designing a Europa Robot (03:29)

After a safe space craft landing, nuclear technology will power a cryobot to tunnel through miles of ice. Stone explains why an autonomous system is necessary for exploration.

Europa Life Scenario (01:48)

After the cryobot tunnels through the ice, an autonomous robot, or "mother ship," would journey to the ocean floor. Scientists describe potential deep sea environments.

Planetary Protection (02:36)

Scientists must sterilize landing crafts to avoid introducing earth microbes into Europa's pristine environment. Galileo was deliberately crashed into Jupiter to avoid Europa.

Automated Laboratory (02:04)

Europa remains untouched, as far as we know. Stone's mother ship will dispatch sub robots to explore and collect samples from its ocean.

Panspermia Theory (02:20)

Scientists outline possible origins of life on Europa. Comets could transport microbes from one planet to another.

Multiple Life Origins (02:06)

Experts discuss the implications of finding different microbes on Europa than on earth. Life could be common in the universe.

Credits: Journey to Europa (00:16)

Credits: Journey to Europa

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Journey to Europa

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Are we alone in the universe? Can the barren, icy, or fiery worlds beyond our planet support life and, if so, what kind? The means to answer these questions are now possible—within our solar system. In this film, meet the scientists and engineers working to develop a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, where a vast ocean may support alien life forms without solar power, as thermal hydro vents do on earth. Explorer and inventor Bill Stone tests an autonomous underwater robot that may one day be used to survey the planet’s deep sea environment. However, getting a spacecraft to land on Europa and tunnel through its ice layer will be one of humanity’s greatest technological challenges. A National Geographic Production.

Length: 50 minutes

Item#: BVL68837

Copyright date: ©2010

Closed Captioned

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