NASA and the ESA are planning to launch a joint mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa. This icy satellite hosts a subterranean ocean larger than those on Earth, and it could host extraterrestrial life.
Upon reaching Europa’s orbit, a lander would be launched to explore the surface for 35 days, scanning material samples for traces of life. Meanwhile, the orbiter craft would spend three months taking various measurements to reveal Europa’s basic structure, focusing on the ocean’s composition. After that, the lander could crash into Europa while taking and transmitting data about the moon’s atmosphere.
Scientists believe there is an ocean hidden beneath the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. NASA-JPL astrobiologist Kevin Hand explains why scientists are so excited about the potential of this ice-covered world to answer one of humanity’s most profound questions.
Undersea footage provided by John Delaney, University of Washington.
While both NASA and the ESA have existing plans to explore Europa and the other icy-watery moons in the solar system, the planned combined effort would offer a unique advantage for both space agencies. Pooling their resources might make it easier to figure out solutions to key problems, such as Jupiter’s intense radiation and the need to make sure Europa won’t be contaminated by organisms from Earth.