Why NASA's Europa Mission Has People Excited
For a while now scientists and lovers of science fiction have often speculated that beneath the icy crust of Jupiter's moon Europa lies a vast ocean of water. This has lead many to hypothesize that since everywhere we have found liquid water here on Earth we have found life it would be quite probable that there would be a great chance of finding life within Europa's oceans as well. This, and, well, the advancement of science, are the reasons that within the newest budget set forth by the White House allocates around $30 million for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to develop a craft that will go and explore Europa and discover more about it.
This mission, called Europa Clipper, will do just that. It will not land on Europa, due to the intense amount of radiation present on Europa which would mess with the craft's mechanics, nor will it even orbit Europa. Instead it will orbit Jupiter and when it comes around to Europa it will make several flybys, much like how the Cassini spacecraft did with the Saturn's moon Titan, during which it will gather scientific data such as probing the icy surface with radar to measure depth and to measure the chemical compositions of Europa's atmosphere.
For the entirety of the mission NASA, which will most likely launch in the mid 2020s if all the appropriate funding is acquired and the mission does not get cancelled or replaced with another, is probably going to require around $2 billion and there is no word yet for how Congress will decide on that aspect of the budget but it is clear that in order to expand into the universe we need to take these little steps to go and explore.
February 4, 2015