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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Europa Clipper Funded

Europa Clipper Funded

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Wednesday, September 19, 2018/Categories: photography, space science, environment, adventure

                                     Ice Moon of Europa (credit: the Hubble Space Telescope)

Like the clipper ships that explored new worlds in centuries past, NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory are following in that tradition with the upcoming Europa Clipper mission. In an adventure suitable for any 'voyage of discovery', the new space endeavor will explore Jupiter's moon Europa to see if the conditions for life exist there. The moon is encased in a crust of water ice indicating a global ocean lies underneath. Gravitational forces, from Europa's orbit around Jupiter, produce tidal stresses on Europa producing cracks allowing subsurface material to reach the moon's surface. These geologic forces could also create conditions for undersea volcanoes, similar to hydro-thermal vents on Earth, that could be suitable for life to have evolved there as well. Recent images from the Europa's polar region have even shown what appear to be geysers erupting from the icy moon.

According to NASA the "Europa Clipper will sail past Europa at a rapid spead, as frequently as every two weeks, providing many opportunities to investigate the icy moon up close. The prime mission plan includes 40-45 flybys, during which the spacecraft will image the moon's surface at high resolution, investigate its composition, the structure of the moon's interior, and its icy shell."

The US Congress has shown considerable interest in this 'voyage of discovery' and has already allocated nearly $550 million for the Europa Clipper and nearly $200 million for a follow-on Europa lander robot. Rep. John Culberson of Texas, has been a strong advocate for exploring Europa and the Johnson Spaceflight Center is located in his district. Current funding for the Europa Clipper has allowed the mission to continue towards a launch in 2022. Assuming all goes according to plan, the spacecraft would arrive at Jupiter several years after launch and to go into orbit around the icy moon.

Like important explorations pioneered by the Cassini and Galileo missions, let the discoveries from Europa Clipper begin!

WHB

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