"These fantastic new images of an icy moon of Jupiter are reminiscent of the ice-covered Arctic Ocean on our planet. The lack of craters, the cracks and signs of movement, all indicate that this might be young ice on a dynamic surface. It raises the possibility of a liquid ocean on Europa, the only other place in our solar system where we suspect such an ocean might exist.
"These images, dramatic as they are, are not the best Galileo will provide. These are distant snapshots taken during Galileo's encounter with a different moon, Ganymede. We'll shoot a whole photo album when Galileo takes its targeted pass at Europa in December.
"We're not going to jump the gun. These pictures do not prove the existence of liquid water on Europa, and the higher-resolution pictures yet to come may not prove it. A few days ago, I greeted the possibility of ancient microbial life on Mars with skeptical optimism, and invited further scientific examination and debate. I greet the new pictures of Europa in the same light.
"The pictures are exciting and compelling, but not conclusive. The potential for liquid water on Europa is an intriguing possibility, and another step in our quest to explore the solar system, the stars, and the answer to the great mystery of whether life exists anywhere else in the cosmos.
"We won't wait for all the answers. We'll release the data as soon as it's available, and share the excitement of discovery not only with scientists, but with the American public, with educators, and especially with children. This is their space program, the American space program, and they should share in the awe and wonder of exploration.
"Once again, NASA will ask the scientific process to work. We'll ask the best minds in the world to analyze these pictures, and the pictures from our targeted pass at Europa. Then we'll ask the scientific community to suggest the best way to follow up on these fascinating findings. As always, NASA will seek to continue to expand knowledge, and find the fastest, best and most efficient ways to further this research."
Headquarters, Washington, DC (August 13, 1996)
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