The perfect conditions for alien life might be hidden under the icy crust of Jupiter’s moon, Europa. And a new mission from NASA plans to send the Europa Clipper to explore.
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The search for extraterrestrial life extends into the far reaches of the galaxy and while there are several distant candidate exoplanets, the most promising destination for alien life might be right in our celestial backyard.
The perfect conditions for alien life could be hidden under the icy crust of Jupiter’s moon, Europa.
And since Europa is in our solar system, we can actually visit Jupiter’s moon.
A new mission from NASA just got the green light to proceed with building an in-depth, investigative orbiter named Europa Clipper. Europa Clipper will be the first time we send a spacecraft to a moon other than our own, and perhaps, uncover that we might not be alone in the universe.
NASA has reason to believe that Europa is potentially habitable as a result of the information sent over from the Hubble Space Telescope and from other previous space missions that took measurements of the moon’s surface while passing by.
And from one of these flybys, the strongest piece of evidence of Europa’s ocean emerged.
Life as we know it needs at least three requirements: liquid water, the right chemical elements, and an energy source. And while this icy world has water, and possible elements, it’s been hard to nail down an energy source on Europa, but NASA’s Europa Clipper orbiter is prepared to find it.
Learn more about the Europa Clipper, one of the most ambitious missions ever attempted by NASA, and how this mission could change our perspective of life in the universe forever on this episode of Elements.
Europa Clipper's Mission to Jupiter’s Icy Moon Confirmed
"The mission will conduct an in-depth exploration of Jupiter's moon, Europa, and investigate whether the icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life, honing our insights into astrobiology. To develop this mission in the most cost-effective fashion, NASA is targeting to have the Europa Clipper spacecraft complete and ready for launch as early as 2023."
"Scientists think Europa’s ice shell is 10 to 15 miles (15 to 25 kilometers) thick, floating on an ocean 40 to 100 miles (60 to 150 kilometers) deep. So while Europa is only one-fourth the diameter of Earth, its ocean may contain twice as much water as all of Earth’s oceans combined."
Europa Clipper Instruments
"An ice penetrating radar will determine the thickness of the moon's icy shell and search for subsurface lakes similar to those beneath Antarctica. The mission also will carry a magnetometer to measure strength and direction of the moon's magnetic field, which will allow scientists to determine the depth and salinity of its ocean."
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