Europa Clipper mission (Photo Credit: nasa.gov)
For years, NASA has been planning to send a probe to Europa and now the US space agency has finally given green light and is ready to move into the next phase. Yes, you read it right. It is to be noted that the Europa Clipper mission will explore the frozen oceanic moon of Jupiter.
In a tweet, NASA said, “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.”
Take a look:
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
In a statement, NASA said, “An icy ocean world in our solar system that could tell us more about the potential for life on other worlds is coming into focus with confirmation of the Europa Clipper mission’s next phase. The decision allows the mission to progress to completion of final design, followed by the construction and testing of the entire spacecraft and science payload.”
“The mission will conduct an in-depth exploration of Jupiter's moon, Europa, and investigate whether the icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life, honing our insights into astrobiology. To develop this mission in the most cost-effective fashion, NASA is targeting to have the Europa Clipper spacecraft complete and ready for launch as early as 2023. The agency baseline commitment, however, supports a launch readiness date by 2025,” it added.
“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,” he added.
It is worth mentioning here that Europa is one of 79 moons of Jupiter and for the longest time, has been a candidate for finding signs of extraterrestrial life because of the subglacial oceanic bodies that exist on the Galilean Moon. The requirement for life to develop are water, suitable chemical compositions and a source of energy. Although water and chemical compositions have been confirmed, a source of energy has not been confirmed yet.
Within the mission, the Europa Clipper spacecraft will perform 45 flybys at closest approach altitudes rather than orbiting Europa itself as all the equipment and circuitry will be destroyed by the radiation from Jupiter.
Back in 2012, the Hubble telescope had found signs of water vapour near the South Polar Region which was considered potential evidence of water plumes. If the plumes are confirmed and their relation to the subsurface is found, then it will be helpful for scientists to find habitable areas to look for life on the moon.