Exodus Earth – Callisto

Today on Discovery Enterprise we join our host physicist Dr. Basil Singer in exploring the potential, challenges and hazards of establishing a human outpost in the Jovian system on the moon Callisto.

Callisto is one of the Galilean moons discovered by Galileo in January 1610 along with three other large Jovian moons—Ganymede, Io, and Europa.

Callisto is the third-largest moon in the Solar System and the second largest in the Jovian system, after Ganymede. Callisto has about 99% the diameter of the planet Mercury but only about a third of its mass. It is the fourth Galilean moon of Jupiter by distance, with an orbital radius of about 1,880,000 km.

Callisto is composed of approximately equal amounts of rock and ices, with a mean density of about 1.83 g/cm3. Compounds detected spectroscopically on the surface include water ice, carbon dioxide, silicates, and organic compounds. Investigation by the Galileo spacecraft revealed that Callisto may have a small silicate core and possibly a subsurface ocean of liquid water at depths greater than 100 km. Thus, like Jupiter’s moons Europa and Ganymede, Callisto may prove to be another abode for life in the solar system.

Potential for Colonization and NASA’s Human Outer Planets Exploration (HOPE)

In the late 1970s when the British Interplanetary Society conducted its landmark unmanned starship study Project Daedalus, Jupiter’s moon Callisto was considered the most likely location for the centre of operations during the construction phase of starship Daedalus. Callisto was chosen because unlike Europe and the other other Galilean satellites it is not subjected to a huge flux of radiation due to Jupiter’s extensive magnetic field.

In 2003 NASA conducted a conceptual study called Human Outer Planets Exploration (HOPE) regarding the future human exploration of the outer solar system. The target chosen to consider in detail was Callisto.

It was proposed that it could be possible to build a surface base on Callisto that would produce fuel for further exploration of the Solar System. Advantages of a base on this moon include the low radiation (due to Callisto’s distance from Jupiter) and geological stability. It could facilitate remote exploration of Europa, or be an ideal location for a Jovian system way station servicing spacecraft heading farther into the outer Solar System, using a gravity assist from a close flyby of Jupiter after departing Callisto.

In a December 2003 report, NASA expressed belief that an attempt for a manned mission to Callisto may be possible in the 2040s.

Exodus Earth – Callisto


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