According to an announcement from NASA, a mission to test Jupiter's moon Europe in search of signs of life will pbad to its final phase of design and construction.
Scientists have long wondered if the ice-covered moon could harbor life in an ocean of underground liquid water. NASA has committed to a preparation date for the launch in 2025, although the mission could be ready as early as 2023.
Europe is one of the many moons of Jupiter, about the size of the Earth's Moon. Planetary scientists have paid a lot of attention because it is believed to have a subsurface ocean and, of course, the presence of water is an important ingredient for life, at least as we know it here on Earth. A mission to fly across the planet and sample materials could provide evidence of the mysteries that the planet's ocean holds.
A Europe clipper mission would orbit Jupiter and fly repeatedly near Europe, measuring it with a suit of nine instruments, including cameras, a radar, a magnetic field detection instrument, a heat measuring device and a mbad spectrometer to measure what Kind of matter the moon is ejected into space. Scientists operating the Hubble Space Telescope have already seen evidence that Europe casts a column of water vapor, and last year, scientists realized that Galileo's Jupiter Orbiter could have flown through one of those pens . Perhaps those pens have even deposited evidence of life, like amino acids, on the surface of Europe.
"Confirmation" is part of NASA's project management plan, which divides missions into separate phases by independent reviews. This decision moves the project from its preliminary design phase to its final design and construction phase, after which another revision would move it to the system badembly, testing and launch phase.
A European exploration mission has been in the minds of scientists for decades. The most recent mission has probably benefited from the defense of recently dismissed Congressman John Culberson, a Republican from the seventh district of the Texas Congress. A landing module on the surface of Europe was scheduled to closely follow the Clipper's heels, but plans for this were delayed until no earlier than 2030, Science reported.
This most recent announcement is an exciting step forward for those who wonder if there is extraterrestrial life here in our own solar system. Hopefully it takes off.