In many classic sci-fi films and outer-space odysseys, the enigmatic moon of Jupiter is often a place to avoid at all costs. But with Europa spewing 100-mile-high water plumes from its ice-clad south pole, scientists are now betting it may also harbor a deep subsurface ocean, heated by intense tidal forces caused by Jupiter's gravity. With this revitalized curiosity comes a quest to organize a robotic mission to Europa, and NASA wants your help.
They've issued a Request For Information (RFI) to all science and engineering communities for ideas and concepts centering around a mission that would cost less than $1 billion. All presentations must address fundamental questions about the subsurface ocean and the search for life beyond Earth.
"This is an opportunity to hear from those creative teams that have ideas on how we can achieve the most science at minimum cost," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the NASA Science Mission Directorate. "Europa is one of the most interesting sites in our solar system in the search for life beyond Earth. The drive to explore Europa has stimulated not only scientific interest but also the ingenuity of engineers and scientists with innovative concepts."
NASA has studied a variety of mission designs and concepts in previous years and currently is funding the development of technologies that will be needed for the science instruments for a Europa mission. Congress appropriated $80 million for this work in Fiscal Year 2014, and the Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal requests an additional $15 million. Previous scientific findings point to the existence of a liquid water ocean located under the moon’s icy crust. This ocean covers Europa entirely and contains more liquid water than all of Earth's oceans combined.
So, are you jazzed for a jab at this Jovian moon and wanna add your two cents? Or, did you see The Europa Report and know what lurks below?