Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun, as well as the largest planet in the Solar System. With such a galactic reputation, it doesn’t come as too much of a surprise that this celestial body has over 60 moons orbiting it. Of particular interest is Europa, Jupiter’s sixth-closest moon, which NASA scientists believe might be conducive for life. As such, in an effort to learn more about the natural satellite, the Europa Multiple Flyby Mission was initiated to conduct “detailed reconnaissance of the icy moon.” But much to the disappointment of space fans everywhere, the mission did not call for a lander.
NASA APPEASES ANGRY SPACE FANS
As luck would have it, NASA – maybe after overhearing the public outcries – has recently announced that a lander isn’t exactly out of the question. At the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Space 2015 conference, Robert Pappalardo, a Europa project scientist, stated that the space agency is “actively pursuing the possibility of a lander.” It may also collaborate with the European Space Agency (ESA), which might contribute a “piggyback probe” or “ice-penetrating impactor” to the $2 billion mission, as reported by Space.com.
If feasible, NASA plans to send the probe to the icy moon by the mid-2020’s, even as early as 2022. From there, the spacecraft will perform 45 flybys of Europa over a period of 2.5 years, according to Live Mint.
WHAT MAKES EUROPA POTENTIALLY HUMAN-FRIENDLY?
Scientists have had their eyes set on Europa ever since the hypothesis arose that a huge ocean of liquid water, possibly measuring 12 miles deep, might exist beneath the moon’s icy, 80-kilometer thick shell. In 2014, it was also suggested that Europa may have plate tectonics. Prior to this discovery, Earth was the only planet known to have a dynamic crust.
All the signs seemingly point to Europa as a potential abode for extraterrestrial life. Now, all that’s left to validate the claim is to focus on the Europa Multiple Flyby Mission, beginning with the most obvious questions that need to be addressed, such as: “What would it take?” and “How much would it cost?”