Besides the Orion capsule or the Commercial Crew program which made it to the front page after NASA disclosed the budget draft for its activities, a new mission also made to the list- a space voyage to Europa, Jupiter’s fourth biggest satellite.
Even if a comeback to the moon or the most expected journey to Mars keep being some of the most fascinating long-term goals for NASA, specialists contend a robotic probe to Europa could have high prospects of spotting alien life forms.
NASA chief Charles Bolden noted at the event reporting the new budget:
“Looking to the future, we’re planning a mission to explore Jupiter’s fascinating moon Europa.”
Casey Dreier, a blogger at The Planetary Society posted his opinion on the matter shortly after the draft budget was revealed. The blogger sees this new initiative as one of the most interesting part of the 2015 financial plan for NASA.
Europa is attractive to space experts because of the seas covered by its frosty surface. Despite the fact that Jupiter’s moon is far from the heat of the sun, the tidal forces generated by Jupiter cause friction that heats up Europa’s insides and keeps its seas liquid and moving. Scientists suspect there are likely aqueous vents on Europa’s sea depths, and that the moon’s cold outside peculiarities hide tectonic-like dynamics.
Practically, even if Jupiter’s moons are affected by over- radiation, Europa’s hard ice surface is probably acting as a safeguard for the under-waters and possible biosphere from harming effects.
Actually, the radiation’s dynamics with the frosty crust may even be the ones leading to the structure of nutrients that make life conceivable. Obviously, a large number of these theories are basically a guess (though based on science) and only a closer glimpse at Europa’s cold world could settle questions. Kevin Hand, vice president researcher for the Solar System Exploration division at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, clarified that all the researcher can say so far is that Europa’s waters don’t have conditions that are too extreme.
While enthusiasts of a space mission to Europa are undoubtedly crossing their fingers waiting for a plan to dive into the moon’s seas, the most recent arrangements include only a flyby mission with a probe concept dubbed the Europa Clipper. The flyby would incorporate a few low-flying circles – an opportunity for the Clipper to watch the moon’s cold surface and collect information on the seas underneath.
Europa missions have been blocked in the exploration and concept stages for quite a long time, but NASA experts are expecting that the new financing will make the mission official, and lead to the the more particular planning stage – a phase that would incorporate more on vehicle configuration, equipment and space experts groups.
Image Source: America Space