Focus your eyes on the true jewel of the Jupiter system. A gorgeous world called Ganymede. As a cherub of Jupiter, Ganymede is the largest moon in the solar system and one of a few potential spots for life beyond our own planet. Sure, Europa gets all the press and Io gets all the googily eyes, but Ganymede is like the shy pretty girl that does all her homework and still knows how to party.
Or one could say Ganymede is George Harrison of the four Galilean moons. She quietly waits in the background with her sparkling channels and her wonderous craters, while John and Paul get all the adoration. Until you realize that, she’ll probably make the best solo record of all of them.
As a testament to it’s beauty, Ganymede was believed to be a star upon initial discovery.
Missions to this gem have been proposed and canceled due to budget cuts (read: Iraqi War) with the next mission tentatively scheduled for 2020. Attention to Ganymede will be at a minimum with Europa being the main focus of that mission, but at least we’ll be able to take a closer look with better tech.
Colonization of the Jovian moons has always held a special place to futurists because of their size (Ganymede has a larger diameter than Mercury) and captured heat from the gas giant. Like Europa, a liquid ocean is believed to flow beneath it’s surface, further adding to the fascination. Ganymede is one of the few celestial bodies in the solar system to have it’s own atmosphere and magnetosphere- two things that make Earth so perfect for life. Though it’s oxygen atmosphere is thin and tenuonous, knowing that a moon can have such things tickles the imagination.
Imagine sitting on a rock where the moon, in this case Jupiter, takes up 80% of the night sky. Walking freely like Superman in a gravity 1/10th that of which you are accustomed to. An artificial and transparent dome above your head to keep in the oxygen/carbon dioxide/nitrogen stew that gives you life. Just protected enough from the radiation your mother planet continuously emminates. Perhaps you’ll take a road trip around the globe. It only takes a couple days in your high-speed tumbler. Thoughts like these make me giddy.
This concludes today’s astronomy class.