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Terraforming of Europa

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The terraforming of Europa is the hypothetical process of boosting the global environment of Europa, where its climate, surface and known properties are deliberately changed with the goal of making it habitable for human colonization without the use of a spacesuit. Although recent astronomical studies indicate it has the greatest potential for being the only other body in the Solar System to sustain life (along with planet Mars),[1] terraformation of this moon proves a challenge, as Europa is near a huge radiation belt around Jupiter,[2] but through the usage of man-made space technology, this radiation could be overcome. There are some major changes required in this:

  • A dense atmosphere is the most versatile radiation shield that exists (while a magnetic field only stops charged particles, an atmosphere stops both charged particles and neutral radiation such as neutrons, X-rays and gamma radiation).
  • Long term retention of an atmosphere would require the establishment of a magnetic field at least half the strength of Earth's, through convection that usually results in the setting up of a dynamo in the core. This could be achieved by reducing oceanic depth so that Europa gets both land and ocean instead of only ocean, allowing for plate tectonics (Earth size is not required for plate tectonics, as shown by the fact that Mars once had plate tectonics).
  • An ozone layer that absorbs ultraviolet radiation and is in charge of decreasing the radiation's harming would not be necessary that far from the sun, especially not since any dense atmosphere (which is important anyway) is a better UV shield than vacuum. See extreme greenhouse gases in the outer solar system.

There are also other requirements for the ability for essential water to exist on the moon's crust, as well as breathable oxygen, usually associated with atmospheric conditions:

  • There would need to be a considerate percentage of oxygen[3] at the atmosphere (about Earth's amount, about 20.95%) to create air (see atmosphere of Earth), with other constituents being 78.09% nitrogen, 0.93% argon, 0.039% carbon dioxide, and other small trace amounts. However, it would not be necessary to have exactly the same percentages and/or pressures, nor is argon needed at all.
  • It would be necessary for the moon to be heated to sustain a warm and suitable temperature, as it is covered in ice. This can be achieved using extreme greenhouse gases in the outer solar system.
  • The atmospheric pressure would need to be increased, usually with the additional atmospheric mass. If Europa is given an atmosphere that resembles Earth's, the pressure would be somewhere in the rough vicinity of 101.325 kPa (MSL) (though it does not need to be exactly the same).

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