NASA’s Europa Mission May Land on Ocean-Harboring Moon

This remastered view of the Jupiter moon Europa is based on information from NASA’s Galileo mission of the 1990s.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

This remastered view of the Jupiter moon Europa is based on information from NASA’s Galileo mission of the 1990s.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

NASA is aiming to visit Jupiter’s Europa sometime in the mid-2020s. While they plan to “characterize” the moon with dozens of fly-bys, there are now talks of potentially sending a probe to the surface.

Mike Wall via Space.com:

NASA’s upcoming mission to Europa may actually touch down on the potentially life-harboring Jupiter moon.

While the main thrust of the Europa mission, which NASA aims to launch by the mid-2020s, involves characterizing the icy satellite from afar during dozens of flybys, the space agency is considering sending a small probe down to the surface as well.

“We are actively pursuing the possibility of a lander,” Robert Pappalardo, Europa project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said last week during a panel discussion at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Space 2015 conference in Pasadena. (JPL manages the Europa mission.) [Europa May Harbor Simple Life-Forms (Video)]

“NASA has asked us to investigate: What would it take? How much would it cost? Could we put a small surface package on Europa with this mission?” Pappalardo added.

NASA has also asked the European Space Agency if it would be interested in contributing a lander, ice-penetrating impactor or other piggyback probe to the roughly $2 billion Europa mission, Spaceflight Now reported in April.

Solar system’s best bet for alien life?

The 1,900-mile-wide (3,100 kilometers) Europa is covered by an ice shell perhaps 50 miles (80 km) thick, but underneath this crust is thought to lie a huge ocean of liquid water 12 miles (20 km) deep or so.

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