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What factors would be working to damage or erode them and how long could they conceivably last? Would making them airtight help in any way, or would the contents last longer in a vacuum (assuming you could vent the atmosphere without letting water in)?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by sphennings, L.Dutch, Vylix, JBH, Amadeus Aug 26 '17 at 22:48

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ ...What type of ruins/spaceship? What are they made of? And what do you mean by "last"? Does the spaceship still have to be functional? Or simply intact? $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Aug 26 '17 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ Not functional by any means (that'd be asking for way too much), but intact enough for archaelogists to extract any information more meaningful than "this thing is alien and aliens probably lived here at some point". Stuff like the ship/outpost's purpose for being there, its intended mission, and maybe, if they're lucky, some preserved bodies/fossils and examples of alien script (like, say, a sign on a door written in alien language that might indicate this was a lavatory, a storage closet, or someone's personal residence). $\endgroup$ – Z.Schroeder Aug 26 '17 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ And what materials are the ruins made out of? I'm sure you can understand why knowing this is essential to answering your question. $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Aug 26 '17 at 16:04
  • $\begingroup$ Nothing currently unknown to science, I'd say. Probably not steel (given these aliens would have to have mastered interstellar travel), but nothing made-up or ridiculous like hard-light or some fictional metal like adamantium. $\endgroup$ – Z.Schroeder Aug 26 '17 at 16:10
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    $\begingroup$ There are quite literally hundreds of thousands of materials known to science. Furthermore there are atleast several dozen materials that one could reasonably use to build a spaceship. You'll need to narrow it down more than simply "probably not steel"... $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Aug 26 '17 at 16:14
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Europa oceans are water with still largely unknown amount of solutes.

Bottom is, at least, as deep as Marianne fault, possibly ten times more (depends on model, scientists didn't make up their mind, yet).

This is a very unfriendly environment for most likely metals. Plastic and glass/ceramic might fare a bit better.

Keeping airtight anything sizable for extended periods of time (> 1 year) would be unfeasible with current materials. Starfaring races may have something better, but I cannot know how much.

Your best bet is to have the spaceship melt some of the ice at the bottom (either leaking heat or mechanically); soon after ice would form again making a preserving cocoon. In this conditions it's likely it could be preserved for long time (centuries or more) almost intact.

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I think - We need to know what oxidants are in Europa's ocean. NASA/JPL are speculating that oxidants are formed from radiation from Jupiter hitting the surface ice. I believe ice floats particularly well in a saline environment, which Europa's ocean may be. Anyway, oxidants created by radiation from Jupiter may cycle deep into the ocean where they could react with your civilizations and spaceship.

Another possible source of oxidants, I believe but am not certain, could come any cracks (fissures) in the seafloor. Same link as above, mentions this.

Of course, fissures introduces another possible source of energy for your scenario. If you haven't seen it, look here:

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/europas-ocean-may-have-an-earthlike-chemical-balance

How long to degrade? I'd use Earth as a basis since the chemistry of Europa's ocean is thought to be similar (see above). You could incorporate biological mechanisms since you re world building, and these could accelerate degradation. Like, marine fungi that are metal starved, and so colonize the space ship rapidly.

My daughter suggests carbon fibre materials to avoid degradation.

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