Olympic Figure Skaters Explore the Icy Moon Europa with NASA
Explore icy moons, like Jupiter’s moon Europa, with Olympic figure skaters Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker!
Trina Ray, an astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a member of the Europa Clipper mission team, answers their questions about why Europa’s surface is one big ice sheet, and what it might be like to skate there.
For more information about the mission and how it will explore this intriguing moon go to: https://europa.nasa.gov/.
Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker
Hey there. I'm Kaitlin Hawayek. And I'm Jean-Luc Baker. And we are US Olympic ice dancers. Our job lets us spend tons of time on the ice together. So we've got a couple of burning questions for the folks at NASA.
Hi Kaitlin and Jean-Luc. My name is Trina Ray, and I'm an astronomer who works at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the Europa Clipper mission and I am ready to take your questions. Fire away.
Awesome. Let's start with what makes Europa special. So what's the big deal about this moon?
So I think a lot of people would say that what makes Europa special is that it has a global ocean underneath the icy shell, and that ocean has been there for 4 billion years. It's full of chemistry, it's full of energy, and maybe the ingredients for life. But I think figure skaters would say what makes Europa special is the giant ice sheet that covers the ocean. There are features that are on Europa that are on no other moon in the solar system, and one that I think you'll love are cycloides. Cycloides are cracks in Europa’s surface that curve and curve and curve and they look an awful lot like double three turns. I think you'll find them awesome.
That's mind blowing. I heard Europa's surface is all ice. How did it end up like that?
So that goes back to the formation of the solar system. When the solar system formed and the sun was young, there was material orbiting it.
And if you were far away from the sun where it was cold, the material that was solid and could form moons are things like ammonia ice, and carbon dioxide ice, and methane ice, and water ice, along with some rock and metal. So all of the planets of the outer solar system, their moons, are dominated by ice. And that's why we call them icy satellites.
Imagine skating on Europa. What would that feel like?
So...it would feel, I think, amazing. Europa is a moon about the size of our moon. And so one of the things that would feel really different is the gravity. And for figure skaters, gravity is a big part of your sport. So on Europa you could jump higher, you could throw farther, and you could lift easier.
I also heard NASA's planning its own icy adventures on Europa. How do how could we get in on that action?
Oh, it's easy to get in on this action. You go to our website or follow us on social media. And thank you so much for your questions today. You and your life's work have delighted me for many years. I hope my life's work has delighted you.