What’s in a Name

Io (pronounced EYE oh) is one of the largest moons of Jupiter and was discovered by Galileo in 1610. The Voyager expedition of 1979 revealed Io as the most volcanically active body in our Solar System. And the NASA spacecraft New Horizons has sent back captured images of explosive volcanic eruptions on the moon as the probe sped past on its mission to Pluto (due to arrive in July 2015).

Io was introduced into American pop culture in 1968 with the movie 2001: a Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke. The movie looked to Jupiter and its Moons as the possible source of the advanced extraterrestrial life that placed the large black monoliths on Earth and the dark side of the Moon to observe mankind’s evolution and development. Having totally confused an American public and mesmerized a younger generation, Arthur C. Clarke published the novel 2001: a Space Odyssey based on the screenplay a few months after the movie was released. And after the Voyager expeditions by NASA in 1979, he wrote the sequel 2010: Odyssey Two that was published in December, 1982.

But from where did the moon of Jupiter get its name?

Io (second pronunciation EE-oh) is a heroine from Greek Mythology. At a very young age, the beautiful young maiden was placed in the priestess group of the goddess Hera (3rd wife of Zeus). She was unfortunate to catch the eye of the Greek god Zeus and became the victim of a jealous wife’s vindictive rage that forced Io to endure torturous wanderings. This strong maiden was determined to defy the gods and find freedom from her curse. By not accepting her plight, she searches for a fellow sufferer of the gods’ wrath, Prometheus. (A god himself, Prometheus was chained and shackled to a mountain for having defied Zeus by giving mankind the gift of fire.) Prometheus informs Io of a possible means of escaping the reach of her persecutors. Following his instructions, she wanders throughout Europe and Asia and eventually swims across the Libyan Sea to Egypt where she settles along the Nile River, finding a sanctuary away from the Greek gods.

In her new country of Egypt, she is elevated to priesthood and gives birth to sons that start the family lineage that one day returns to Greece. One of her descendants is the only mortal that could break the chains that shackled her benefactor, Prometheus. That mortal man who possessed supernatural strength was Hercules.

By taking her name, Io Engineers honors the perseverance, determination and strength of this inspirational mythological figure.