Like it or not, Dave, NASA is officially gearing up for a mission to send a robotic probe to Europa in a continued search for life.
As part of the agency’s 2015 budget proposal, the space agency has included $15 million to kick off some preliminary planning for full-fledged probing missions to Jupiter’s moon Europa, which many scientists believe could represent our best chance of finding life on another celestial body.
NASA officials are still figuring out exactly what shape the project will take, but it’s tentatively set to launch in the mid-2020s. Obviously you’ll have to add an additional 6 years travel time on top of that before the probe will actually get there from Earth.
Europa is such an intriguing option because scientists recently discovered liquid plumes of water shooting up through Europa’s icy surface. It could make it easier to study by flying a probe through that water to gather samples, as opposed to designing a full-fledged rover to land and explore.
As if finding water weren't cool enough, Harvard University astronomer Avi Loeb noted that Europa could be a lot more compelling for yet another reason: “There might be fish under the ice.” Alien fish? Oh, hell, yes.
Of course, this mission goes against Dave’s final directive from 2010: The Year We Make Contact to leave Europa the hell alone. But, hey, can’t stand in the way of progress, right?