NASA plans on sending an unmanned vehicle to search for life in the oceans of Europa, Jupiter’s sixth-closest moon. The exciting news was practically buried in a press release regarding agency funding. The communique also mentions the agency’s intention to develop technologies for an “asteroid redirect program” that will lead to a manned mission to Mars.
Clearly NASA doesn’t remember the Monolith’s warning from 2001: A Space Odyssey: “All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there.
“This budget ensures that the United States will remain the world’s leader in space exploration and scientific discovery for years to come. The budget supports the administration’s commitment that NASA be a catalyst for the growth of a vibrant American commercial space industry, and keeps us on target to launch American astronauts from right here in the USA by 2017, ending our reliance on others to get into space and freeing us up to carry out even more ambitious missions beyond low-Earth orbit.
“We are committed to the International Space Station, and the latest extension guarantees we’ll have this unique orbiting outpost for at least another decade. This means an expanded market for private space companies, more ground-breaking research and science discovery in microgravity – and additional opportunities to live, work and learn in space over longer and longer periods of time.
“This budget keeps NASA’s deep space exploration program on track by funding the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew vehicle to take American astronauts farther into the solar system than we have ever gone before. Our stepping stone approach to sending humans to Mars involves continued research on the space station, testing our new capabilities beyond the moon, exploring an asteroid and ultimately sending a crewed mission to the Red Planet.
“In order to carry out these pioneering missions, we have to develop technologies for our asteroid redirect mission that will lead to the subsequent first crewed mission to Mars.
“This budget funds all elements of that stepping stone approach, and actually increases funding for space technology development and other efforts that will support the first crewed flight of SLS to an asteroid.
“In the coming year, we’ll build on our nation’s record of breathtaking and compelling scientific discoveries and achievements in space, with science missions that will reach far into our solar system, reveal unknown aspects of our universe and provide critical knowledge about our home planet. It includes funding for missions to Mars and the formulation for a mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa. It also funds science missions already heading toward destinations such as Jupiter and Pluto and operating throughout the solar system, a mission to study our planet’s magnetic system, and steady progress on the James Webb Space Telescope.