More Details On NASA Mission To Search for Alien Life On Jupiter’s Moon

Within the next decade, something every sci-fi lover has dreamed of may happen: NASA will take a trip to search for signs of alien life. As mentioned in a previous article, the location in question is Jupiter’s Europa, where Hubble has occasionally detected water plumes that can shoot out of the surface at about 2,300 feet per second and reach 120 miles above the surface of the moon. In comparison, Mount Everest is about five and a half miles above sea level.


Astronomers speculate that the plumes are a good indication that there may be massive liquid oceans underneath the ice on Europa. Between these hypothesized oceans and the oxygen heavy atmosphere, there is enough evidence to send a probe in a search for alien life on this cold moon. Now, further details of the impeding mission are available.

Earlier in February, the White House granted a $30 million budget for the proposed space trip, as part of a total packet of $18.5 billion. The total cost of the mission is expected to be approximately $2.1 billion, spread out over nearly a decade, with an official launch expected in 2022.

NASA believes that a flyby mission may be the best approach at the moment, expecting the probe, named the Europa Clipper, to attempt 45 flybys over the course of three and a half years. The probe may also be used to take direct samples from the water plumes, using onboard gear that can detect biomolecules. This will give scientists much needed data on the biological composition of Europa’s proposed liquid oceans. Something to look for is a certain trait in amino acids called chirality, or handedness. A chiral amino acid has two forms which are mirror images of each other, but otherwise are identical.

Astrobiologist, Chris McKay, states “For example, spotting a set of amino acids that all display the same chirality, or handedness, in plume material would be strong evidence of Europan life.”

However, getting close enough to the plumes to collect sufficient data may prove to be quite difficult, as it will force the probe to fly low and slow, not to mention that the plumes are expected to shoot out of the ground at a very intense rate.

Despite this, things are looking favorable for NASA, whose space probe will determine whether we are the only ones in this Solar System.