'Europa Excursion' Takes Kids on a Journey to Jupiter's Icy Moon

In the adorable new kids' book "Europa Excursion," a team of furry, four-legged astronauts embarks on a deep-space journey to Jupiter's icy moon Europa.

Written by the aerospace engineer and SpaceX mission manager Andrew Rader, "Europa Excursion" is the third book in the "Epic Space Adventure" series, which aims to teach kids about the wonders of the solar system using cute cartoons and clever rhymes. The book launched on Kickstarter in October and is quickly closing in on its $15,000 fundraising goal.

In their latest out-of-this-world adventure, the trilogy's two main protagonists — a "giraffestronaut" named MC Longneck and his robot companion Sputnik — head to Europa to rescue a crew of animal astronauts whose spaceship is trapped under the moon's icy crust in its subsurface ocean. What will these brave explorers find beneath the surface of this alien world? Will they confirm scientists' suspicions that this "water world" could harbor extraterrestrial life? [Photos: Europa, Mysterious Icy Moon of Jupiter]

Here in the nonfiction universe, researchers are actively investigating the possibility of life on Europa. While this distant moon may not look like a very hospitable place on its surface, its subsurface ocean seems like a place where life could survive and thrive. Not only does Europa's icy shell provide a shield against harmful solar radiation, volcanic activity and hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor could also provide the heat and energy needed to sustain life — much like the hydrothermal vents that support microbial life on Earth's ocean floor.

NASA is currently planning to send two missions to Europa to investigate whether the moon could be habitable and to look for signs of life: an orbiter called Europa Clipper is scheduled to launch in the mid-2020s, and the proposed Europa Lander would follow up on the findings of the Europa Clipper by digging into the surface in search of biosignatures.

It may be a few years before NASA scientists can examine Europa for signs of life. In the meantime, "Europa Excursion" can humor us with one scientist's ideas about what lies beneath the surface. "Europa Excursion" presents scientific concepts in a fun and simple way with 56 pages of full-color illustrations by the graphic designer Galen Frazer. If the Kickstarter campaign reaches its fundraising goal by Dec. 9, pledgers will receive the book and other bonus goodies in time for the holidays.

For a pledge of $9, backers of the Kickstarter campaign will receive the e-book. A $14 pledge buys the hardcover version along with a "secret bonus." For $25, backers will get all of the above along with a mission patch, a coloring book and a pack of stickers featuring scenes from the book, the National Association of Space Animals (NASA) logo, and real images of planets and moons in the solar system.

Anyone who missed the first two books in the trilogy can get all three of them (as well as the patch, stickers and coloring book) by pledging $43 on Kickstarter. Both "Epic Space Adventure" and "Mars Rover Rescue" are also available on Amazon.com.

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. Original article on Space.com.

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Hanneke Weitering
Contributing expert

Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at FutureFlight.aero and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at Space.com. As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.