NASA is requesting 30 million dollars to begin working on a mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, hoping to unlock some of the secrets of alien life. Despite having a frozen surface, the satellite is one of the likeliest candidates for extraterrestrial life in the solar system.
Europa is a weird place. At a first glance, it seems like a frozen wasteland, too far from the Sun to have enough heat to amount to anything, but an increasing number of evidence indicates that at the very least, Europa has liquid water beneath its surface, and may very well host life. The force in case may be friction, caused by Jupiter’s gravitational stress. A recent study has also found significant tectonic features which make it even more spectacular – it’s clearly a place which deserves our attention, and that’s exactly how NASA feels like.
Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California have been working on concepts for a mission to Jupiter’s moon for 15 years, but until now, there were never enough money or enough evidence to show that the place is worth it; now, we clearly have enough evidence, but will there be enough money? NASA chief financial officer David Radzanowski says that now is the time to strike, and that they have finally found an adequate concept.
“We call this concept the Europa Clipper,” he said.
The Clipper has been a challenging idea for quite a while now. It consists of Jupiter-orbiting spacecraft that will make multiple flybys over a 3 year period. The purpose won’t be to directly look for life, but rather to seek life-hosting conditions.
“The way we framed the Europa mission science objectives is not to specifically look for life, but to understand habitability; the ingredients for life,” Kevin Hand, JPL’s deputy chief scientist for solar system exploration said at a press event in California yesterday.
Who knows what secrets Europa holds? Is it a stretch to hope to find extraterrestrial life? Right now, Europa seems like the most likely candidate in a solar system – it’s a huge question that we have to answer as soon as possible. Hopefully, the US government sees things the same way.
Andrei's background is in geophysics, and he's been fascinated by it ever since he was a child. Feeling that there is a gap between scientists and the general audience, he started ZME Science -- and the results are what you see today.