cousin bob’s europa

Cousin Bob, as a boy on Long Island,

loved The Grateful Dead and Star Trek.

He bought music tapes, went to rock concerts,

and hung tennis and whiffle balls

from his bedroom ceiling,

imagining them planets, like Jupiter,

with wads of tape for their moons,

including Europa,

which Galileo Galilei, in 1610,

became the first Earthling to see,

his spyglass changing Homo sapiens’ reality.

Often, Cousin Bob would fall asleep wondering,

Does life exist on Europa?

When Cousin Bob grew up, he became 

a planetary scientist

at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab,

where he and his colleagues pushed

for seventeen years

to fund a mission to Europa.

Downloads from the Voyager 2 flyby

in 1997 and the Galileo spacecraft

from 1996 to 2002

wet his appetite for answers

to Europa’s biggest mysteries, including

its strange geology, odd magnetic signature,

and salty ocean beneath a thin shell of ice

that Cousin Bob thinks likely harbors

discoveries worthy of being labeled ‘life.’

Today, with a robotic mission to Europa

approved to launch in (now 2024)

reach the icy moon in three to seven years,

and send data back to Earth for careful analysis, 

seventeen years of Cousin Bob’s 

labor and dreams are coming to fruition

with a payload of nine science experiments

on this one long-awaited NASA mission.

Forever a Deadhead and a Trekkie, 

now part of the global Europa consortium, 

Cousin Bob muses with hard-won wisdom,

“Somewhere on this planet tonight,  

a child looking up at planets and moons

 hanging from their bedroom ceiling 

will one day be telling me

 if Europa turns out to be

all I dreamed it would be.”





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