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My mother, Nora Alkon, was one of them. One of my earliest memories of mum was watching her television and arguing passionately for an expedition to the moon. ''It's a simply as this, Tony,'' she said to her questioner, ''we sent the Kirch Jupiter with an instrument whose only purpose was to see through the ice and find life. And it did just that - it saw through the ice, and found the Moon Cows. Thousands of people around the world have analyzed the images and every last one has agreed that the Moon Cows aren't some figment of the HASA's imagination, or a software glitch, or even as some pundit said, moon dust on the sensor!''
''Okay Nora,'' he replied, ''so in your opinion it is absolutely beyond doubt that there really is alien life on..., I'm sorry, in Europa?''
She nodded. ''Yes.''
''So what now? If you could speak to NASA and the ESA right now, what would you tell them?''
''I would tell them that we need to go back there, Tony. We need to go back and contact them. We need to go back to Jupiter with people, we need to drill through the ice and we need to try and talk to them.''
'''We come in peace, take us to your leader?'''
Mum laughed. ''Yeah, I guess.''
''Why send people, Nora? Space agencies have been sending probes into space for almost eighty years, without complaints so far.''
''Let me ask you this, Tony. Tomorrow a spaceship flies down from space and lands, oh, on the White House Lawn, or in front of Westminster or in the middle of Red Square. A nervous crowd surrounds it. The hatch pops open and out rolls a little robot on tracks beeping and booping at us. What would your reaction be?''
''I'd ask it for an interview.'' They laugh together. ''Seriously? Oh I'd have to say I'd be a little underwhelmed.''
''And I'd have to wonder where it's alien masters were hiding.''
''Exactly, Tony. We have to go out there and greet them ourselves.''
With the backing of a very vocal pro-expedition canvas, public consensus slowly swung towards funding a follow-up mission to Europa that would be dedicated to finding life, if it really was there. Petitions were drafted, letters were sent, blog post after blog post was made and legions of armchair exobiologists girded themselves for battle, in universities and Internet forums around the world. But in the places places where the powers that be dwelt all their cries were met with silence. After decades of slow global warming, evidence was being accumulated by scientists that the Earth was on the verge of an abrupt reversal. The planet threatened to plunge into a new global ice age. This wasn't a little ice age of the kind the one that froze the Thames in 1607, but a full on the-glaciers-are-coming-grab-the-children, capitalized, Ice Age.