Move over Mars, NASA is planning a trip to the water-filled planet, Europa. The Mars One mission may have a program in place for inhabiting the red planet, but NASA’s sights are on a moon that has the greater potential for life due to its amounts of water. That planet being one of Jupiter’s many moons, Europa. NASA believes that there could be extra-terrestrial life living in the distant oceans depths.
Though the proposal is in its very early stages, NASA is asking for US $15 million for its “pre-formulation work.” The plan is to retrieve detailed observation of the ocean moon, and to also get interior ocean samples as well. The Hubble telescope, last year, filmed very interesting happenings on Europa’s surface. Large plumes of water, over 200 Km high, are bursting out into the moons atmosphere. This is how NASA plans to recover samples of the oceans interior. The Europa Clipper is what the U.S. space agency is calling the probe NASA is developing for such a journey. The Clipper could then, theoretically, pass through these streams of water vapors and collect samples to determine what the waters make up is and what may live inside. The water jets provide NASA with an easier way of collecting samples instead of having to risk the dangers of actually landing on the moons surface.
Beth Robinson, NASA’s chief financial officer, said, “Europa is a very challenging mission operating in a really high radiation environment, and there’s lots to do to prepare for it.” Robinson added the proposed launch date is for sometime in 2020. NASA has never requested funds to investigate Jupiter’s moon before and is stressing that NASA is only in the very early stages of development. But the water-filled Europa is a trip NASA plans to take, no matter what the cost. Robinson said that it is impossible to predict the actual amount that would be needed for the mission but that NASA will be looking at many challenging ideas.
Avi Loeb, a Harvard astronomer, says that Europa has far more exciting possibilities than exploring the dry atmosphere of Mars. Loeb said, “There might be fish under the ice.”
Galileo, one of NASA’s probes, has flown by Jupiter’s moon but it, nor any other probe, have concentrated its efforts on Europa. Back in 1989 it took the Galileo 6 years to arrive at the fifth planet. The long journey has NASA working on a newly designed rocket capable of carrying astronauts further into space than ever before. The U.S. space agency is also building a modern crew vehicle named the Orion. Both of these spacecraft’s will help NASA in other projects the agency is planning for in the future. In 2025, NASA plans to spend astronauts to an asteroid and in 2030 back to Mars. The budget also includes sending astronauts to the International Space Station.
Many scientists believe that Europa is hiding one enormous ocean under its icy shell. An ocean that contains twice the amount of water than on planet Earth. With water becoming the next hot commodity, it is no wonder that NASA has plans to explore the water-filled moon, Europa. The U.S. space agency will be the first to analyze Jupiter’s moon and “boldly go where no man has gone before.”
By Derik L. Bradshaw