NASA scientists are currently in the process of designing the Europa Clipper, which will be departing for Jupiter’s mysterious and icy moon Europa in 2023.
Once the spacecraft reaches the large system of Jupiter, it will be making 40 daringly close flights directly over Europa so that scientists can learn about the moon’s geology, what its composition might be, and, of course, what might be lurking in its large ocean, according to Space.
However, while scientists are keen to get to work on constructing the Europa Clipper, they reportedly have just one final review left that must be passed so that they can switch from designing to actually building.
“Europa we don’t really get — there are these really key mysteries we’re trying to understand. Europa Clipper is going to tell us so much about how icy moons work, and icy moons are probably the most common habitable environments in the universe, so that’s exciting,” Robert Pappalardo, who is a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and also one of the project scientists involved with the mission to Europa, explained.
Of course, if there is life to be found on Europa, it certainly won’t be found directly on the moon’s surface. Instead, life that might be hidden here would most likely be deep within the depths of Europa’s interior ocean.
While life does indeed need water to survive, what may be even more crucial for life on this moon is whether there is the necessary geological activity on the seafloor of the ocean to be able to sustain different microorganisms and keep them alive.
But besides water and geological activity, ice would also protect hidden life that might otherwise be harmed by radiation that is normally present on the surface of Europa, all of which makes the ocean of this moon the most logical place to search for life.
Jupiter’s icy moon Europa is one of the most tantalizing worlds for exploration—which is why NASA scientists are deep in the process of designing a spacecraft meant to crack its secrets. https://t.co/j2nd5bkPTw
— Scientific American (@sciam) January 29, 2019
As Pappalardo admitted, even though there is plenty of other information to take in about Europa, people are especially interested in learning whether Jupiter’s icy moon holds life.
“People care about it, people want to know about this mysterious world that might harbor life. That’s a really important reason to do it.”
Within the Europa Clipper spacecraft, NASA scientists will be installing nine instruments to learn whether the moon is actually capable of sustaining life, along with many other things. The spacecraft will be hovering astonishingly close to Europa when it flies by, getting to just 15.5 miles away from the moon’s surface, which means that there will be some breathtaking photographs.
If you’re wondering what the timeline for the Europa Clipper might be, it is being reported that once questions about components are answered, scientists will be very close to entering the final budget stage, which will then be followed by constructing the actual spacecraft that will be zipping along to Jupiter’s moon in 2023.