NASA is heading to Europa, Jupiter’s icy (and doubtlessly life-supporting) moon, within the subsequent decade. The mission could possibly be prepared for launch as quickly as 2023, the company stated in an announcement on Tuesday, though it’s at present dedicated to being launch-ready by 2025.
Europa is a compelling vacation spot: It’s the sixth-largest moon within the photo voltaic system and has a crust primarily comprised of water ice. Astrophysicists have lengthy speculated that there’s liquid water under, and doubtlessly alien life. The Europa Clipper mission will ship a spacecraft to orbit Jupiter and carry out at the very least 45 shut flybys of the moon, which can allow extra detailed imagery than ever earlier than.
“We’re all excited concerning the determination that strikes the Europa Clipper mission one key step nearer to unlocking the mysteries of this ocean world,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA Science Mission Directorate affiliate administrator, stated in an announcement.
Among the many instrument payload at present anticipated are high-definition cameras and an ice-penetrating radar, the latter of which might search for the subsurface lakes scientists suppose are there. A magnetometer would measure the salinity and depth of those oceans based mostly on measurements of the magnetic subject, whereas different gear would search for proof of an environment and up to date water eruptions on Europa’s floor.
Whereas the Europa Clipper gained’t contact down on the moon, it’ll present essential info to NASA on the feasibility and worth of a surface-based mission sooner or later. If water is found that’s of the same salinity to that of Earth, the ramifications of such a discovery could possibly be game-changing.
“Europa we don’t actually get — there are these actually key mysteries we’re making an attempt to grasp,” Robert Pappalardo, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory planetary scientist, instructed Area.com in January. “Folks care about it, folks wish to learn about this mysterious world which may harbor life. That’s a very necessary motive to do it.”