NASA Announces Trip to Europa Paving the Way for Further ET Exploration

NASA readies a mission to Europa to explore the potential of off world, aquatic life.

An artist concept of the Europa Clipper near Europa (Image Courtesy of NASA)

An artist concept of the Europa Clipper near Europa (Image Courtesy of NASA)

NASA has announced that it will send a spacecraft, the Europa Clipper, to Jupiter’s icy moon in order to study the potential for life on other worlds.

Since the early 1980s scientists have been fascinated with Europa’s potential for harboring undetected life. With its icy surface cracked and creased, Europa hints that beneath its shell there may be tectonic activity, and therefore enough heat to keep a vast liquid ocean flowing.

Or at least, that’s the theory to date.

To discover whether scientists are right in their conjecture, the Clipper will be tasked with orbiting Europa and characterizing the nature of the moon’s ice (and potential liquid water), determining the chemical composition of that water and surveying the present geology. In order to achieve these ends, the craft will be outfitted with 9 instruments, including three imagers, a spectrograph, a radar sounding machine, a magnetometer, a magnetic sounding tool, and two spectrometers.

“We are all excited about the decision that moves the Europa Clipper mission one key step closer to unlocking the mysteries of this ocean world,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We are building upon the scientific insights received from the flagship Galileo and Cassini spacecraft and working to advance our understanding of our cosmic origin, and even life elsewhere.”

With the data collected by the forward-going Clipper, NASA will begin to determine where it would like to land its next Europa explorer which could potentially pass through the Moon’s icy core to explore its hypothesized oceans.

While many NASA missions have extended development times, the agency isn’t waiting to fire off its next Jovian visitor. As of this writing, the Europa Clipper has orders to be ready for launch by 2023. If that timeline can’t be met, the craft will leave Earth on its astrobiological quest no later than 2025.