NASA plans to launch Europa Clipper mission by 2025
Scientists believe one of Jupiter's moons could have an ocean beneath its icy surface.
PASADENA, CALIFORNIA — NASA has announced plans to launch the Europa Clipper space mission to examine Jupiter's icy moon Europa by 2025.
The mission aims to identify whether or not life could exist on Europa, according to the U.S. space agency's website.
The Europa Clipper spacecraft will orbit around Jupiter and make 45 flybys to Europa from altitudes ranging from 25 kilometers to 2,700 kilometers above the moon's surface.
The Europa Clipper mission will consist of a Europa Clipper spacecraft that would carry instruments such as an ice-penetrating radar to determine the thickness of the moon's outer crust.
A thermal instrument will also be carried onboard to search for recent eruptions of warmer water on the moon's surface. The ice-penetrating radar will also look for subsurface lakes underneath Europa's frozen surface.
In 2012, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope detected water vapor above Europa's south polar region, providing strong evidence that there could be water plumes — and potentially a subsurface ocean — on Europa.
The mission will also search for evidence of tiny particles and water in Europa's atmosphere. Cameras and spectrometers are to be taken onboard to take images of Europa's surface and to determine its composition.
According to NASA, the space agency is targeting to have the Europa Clipper spacecraft ready as soon as 2023, in order for the mission to be cost-effective.
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