The Icy Moon
Created for PodGunner Command at Digital Iris LLC
Sampled from Development Documents
Gravity: 1.315 m/s² or .134 X Earth
Most of the planet’s surface is flat or slightly hilly, due to the tides under the ice, and is usually a reddish rusty color, due to sulfur and other minerals in the ice. The glare of sunlight off the ice would probably obscure the landscape past a certain point, and any human explorers would need some kind of light filter for their helmets. These smooth plains are cut through with crevices that vary in width, with some being only a few feet wide to others being as wide as a large river and deeper than the Grand Canyon Sometimes these crevices ledges would resemble small cliffs, if the ice shifts and swells correctly, but other crevices would be invisible until you were right on top of them, making vehicle travel dangerous.
Despite being mostly flat, there are a couple of features that make Europa’s landscape more interesting. Covering the equator are the penitentes, ice spikes that are up to 32 feet tall. There might also be plumes of water that are squeezed out of open crevices by the tides. These plumes shoot water up 120 miles, higher than Mount Everest, though this would only happen periodically. This would probably sound like standing next to a waterfall, and the spray would probably fall as hail or snow around the plume.
With a temperature of -260 degrees at the equator, and -370 elsewhere, any long-term operations would probably be located at the equator, with heavily insulated troops and attempts to minimize any time spent outdoors. (Further information is restricted under NDA for game story reasons.)
The Europan atmosphere is made of pure oxygen and is thus unbreathable by humans. Most of this atmosphere leaks off into space, and would probably be rather thin. This might lead to a sky with a hazy twilight feel, where the stars are still visible but the sky looks purple or a dark blue. This would be the case even when it was “day’ on Europa.
There would be a constant chorus of creaking, cracking, and groaning sounds from the ice flexing.
A simulation of Europa's surface and sky.
Image taken from Jet Propulsion Laboratory NASA site.
Europa is one of sixty moons of orbiting Jupiter. Europa is covered with ice and was once where humanity believed their first encounter with alien life would be. The surface of Europa is an ice-covered shell, but underneath are vast oceans can contain more water than there is on Earth. Many crevices cut across Europa’s surface formed by constant flexing of the ocean below it, melting and refreezing.
Other features present on Europa are circular and elliptical lenticulae (Latin for "freckles"). Many are domes, some are pits and some are smooth, dark spots. Others have a jumbled or rough texture. The dome tops look like pieces of the older plains around them, suggesting that the domes formed when the plains were pushed up from below. Europa's surface temperature averages about 110 K (−160 °C; −260 °F) at the equator and only 50 K (−220 °C; −370 °F) at the poles, keeping Europa's icy crust as hard as granite.
The different models for the estimation of the ice shell thickness give values between a few kilometers and tens of kilometers. It is predicted that the outer crust of solid ice is approximately 10–30 km (6–19 mi) thick, including a ductile "warm ice" layer, which could mean that the liquid ocean underneath may be about 100 km (60 mi) deep. This leads to a volume of Europa's oceans of 3 × 1018 m3, slightly more than two times the volume of Earth's oceans.
Spectrographic evidence suggests that the dark, reddish streaks and features on Europa's surface may be rich in salts such as magnesium sulfate, deposited by evaporating water that emerged from within. Sulfuric acid hydrate is another possible explanation for the contaminant observed spectroscopically. In either case, because these materials are colorless or white when pure, some other material must also be present to account for the reddish color, and sulfur compounds are suspected.
Europa may have periodically occurring plumes of water 200 km (120 mi) high or more than 20 times the height of Mt. Everest. These plumes appear when Europa is at its farthest point from Jupiter, and are not seen when Europa is at its closest point to Jupiter, in agreement with tidal force modeling predictions. The tidal forces are about 1,000 times stronger than the Moon's effect on Earth.
Europa's atmosphere practically consists of nothing but oxygen. The oxygen is continuously produced from the ice surface, by way of radiolysis (radiation splits the water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen), but most of it escapes into space.
A view of Europa taken from space.
Image taken from NASA website.
Research for this project:
Animal adaptations to the cold
Heat retention techniques
The Inuit people and their survival techniques
As much into Europa as possible
Europa articles found with Google Scholar