Back to All Events

General Meeting - Dr. Robert Pappalardo, JPL Europa Mission Project Scientist

  • OMSI Auditorium 1945 Southeast Water Avenue Portland, OR, 97214 United States (map)

Exploring Europa: A Potentially Habitable World

Jupiter's moon Europa may have an internal ocean of liquid water, along with the chemistry and energy that life requires.  In the cold reaches of the outer solar system, the uppermost portion of Europa’s icy shell forms a rock-hard skin which fractures and deforms to create cracks, ridges, and bands.  But Galileo spacecraft data tell of a warm interior, with a convecting icy shell above a liquid water ocean, leading to partial melting and formation of chaotic terrains.  Exploration of Europa has been deemed an extremely high priority for planetary science, given this moon’s potential to support simple life.  After many years of study, NASA recently selected a highly capable suite of remote sensing and in situ instruments for a mission to explore Europa and investigate its habitability through multiple close flybys.   The mission will interrogate the moon’s ice shell, ocean, composition, geology, and current activity.  In understanding Europa’s potential for life, we can address the fundamental question: Are we alone in the Universe?


Robert Pappalardo is Project Scientist for NASA’s Europa Mission at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California.  He has served as the Project Scientist for the Cassini Equinox (first extended) Mission at Saturn and is a recipient of NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal.  He has served as a member of the National Research Council’s Space Studies Board and Co-Chair of its Committee on the Origins and Evolution of Life. His research focuses on processes that have shaped the icy satellites of the outer solar system, especially Europa and the role of its probable subsurface ocean. He earned his B.A. in Geological Sciences from Cornell University and his Ph.D. in Geology from Arizona State University.

Later Event: January 20
Astrophysics/Cosmology SIG