NASA is heading to Europa, Jupiter’s icy (and potentially life-supporting) moon, in the next years. The mission might be ready for launch as soon as 2023, the company claimed in a declaration on Tuesday, although it is presently committed to being launch-ready by 2025.
Europa is a compelling location: It’s the sixth-largest moon in the solar system as well as has a crust primarily consisted of water ice. Astrophysicists have long speculated that there is liquid water below, as well as potentially alien life. The Europa Clipper goal will undoubtedly send out a spacecraft to orbit Jupiter and perform a minimum of 45 close flybys of the moon, which will undoubtedly enable much more detailed images than in the past.
“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,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA Science Objective Directorate associate manager, stated in a statement.
One step closer to Europa! Our upcoming mission to Jupiter’s intriguing ocean moon is ready to move into the next phase. Coming up is the final design, followed by construction and testing of our spacecraft and science payload. Details: https://t.co/EH6jfP06Pv pic.twitter.com/8Y2WAmAckP
— NASA Europa Clipper (@EuropaClipper) August 19, 2019
Among the instrument payload currently expected are high-definition electronic cameras as well as an ice-penetrating radar, the latter of which would look for the subsurface lakes researchers believe are there. A magnetometer would undoubtedly measure the salinity and also deepness of these seas based upon measurements of the magnetic field, while other devices would undoubtedly search for evidence of an ambiance as well as recent water eruptions on Europa’s surface area.
While the Europa Clipper will not touch down on the moon, it will certainly supply crucial details to NASA on the usefulness and also the value of a surface-based mission in the future. If water is uncovered that is of a similar salinity to that of Planet, the implications of such an exploration could be game-changing.
“Europa we don’t get — there are these key mysteries we’re trying to understand,” Robert Pappalardo, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory planetary scientist, told Space.com in January. “People care about it, and people want to know about this mysterious world that might harbor life. That’s a fundamental reason to do it.”