NASA planning mission to Europa to determine if the moon can sustain life

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May 27, 2015

The minds at NASA are nailing down the details of their next mission, which will send a technology-packed probe to Europa in an effort to determine if it could support life.

NASA has nailed down nine instruments that will be included in the Europa spacecraft, which should give scientists a much better understanding of conditions on Jupiter’s moon — and whether the water underneath that icy surface could harbor life. The mission is scheduled to launch around 2025 and will be loaded with ice-penetrating radio, a heat detector and high-tech cameras.

"Europa has tantalized us with its enigmatic icy surface and evidence of a vast ocean, following the amazing data from 11 flybys of the Galileo spacecraft over a decade ago and recent Hubble observations suggesting plumes of water shooting out from the moon," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "We’re excited about the potential of this new mission and these instruments to unravel the mysteries of Europa in our quest to find evidence of life beyond Earth."

Planning for the project was budgeted at $30 million, which NASA is using to formulate exactly how the Europa mission will work. The plan currently calls for a solar-powered craft to set out on a looping orbit of the moon, eventually conducting 45 flybys over a three-year period. Some will come as close to the surface as 16 miles.

This is obviously just the first step in humanity’s efforts to explore Europa, and will followup on some intel gathered during the Galileo mission in the 1990s and early 2000s. Hopefully we’ll be talking about that awesome, ice-busting robo-submarine idea sooner rather than later.

(Via NASA, Space)