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$2bn Europa clipper mission proposed

Posted on Monday, 18 February, 2013 | Comment icon 26 comments

Image credit: NASA/JPL

Scientists are hoping to send a probe to find signs of life on Jupiter's ice-covered waterworld moon.

When the topic of finding alien life within our solar system is brought up, Europa is predominantly mentioned as the single most likely place to find it. Thought to be filled with oceans of liquid water encased within an icy crust, the conditions on this Jovian moon could be ideal for life to develop. The problem with looking for it though is that Europa is both a long way away and its subterranean oceans are all but inaccessible.

In a bid to learn more about the frozen moon and whether it supports life, scientists have proposed a new $2bn spacecraft called the Europa Clipper which is designed to make several passes while orbiting Jupiter. Funding has yet to be confirmed for the project but if all does go ahead the probe could be launched by 2021.

"scientists have drawn up plans for a mission that could look for life on Europa, a moon of Jupiter that is covered in vast oceans of water under a thick layer of ice."

  View: Full article |  Source: Guardian Unlimited

  Discuss: View comments (26)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #17 Posted by Sundew on 20 February, 2013, 2:24
Concerning landing and one day exploring below the ice. Someone mentioned the ice may be 60 miles thick before you reach the liquid ocean. If that is so (and I have no idea if that figure is correct) how likely is it we can get a probe down to the water? With -160 to -220 on the surface, any hole that we could melt or bore would instantly refreeze. Could you receive a signal through that much ice from an untethered ROV? It also seems unlikely that you could have 60 miles of cable from the surface to an ROV. You would almost need a robot that could melt its way down to the water, operate indepe... [More]
Comment icon #18 Posted by Major Payne on 20 February, 2013, 2:55
We must remember that at that time the "world" was a divided body when it came to Space travel. If it were not for the Soviet Union (at the time) trying to reach the Moon during the early 60's, we as mankind may have taken a little longer to reach other bodies besides our Planet. President Kennedy was adamant in getting to the Moon first and in turn threw all the finacial backing that NASA needed to get the job done. (and to be truthful they were in second place until the final stretch) In today's world where we now work together (as a world) to acheive these missions, the ... [More]
Comment icon #19 Posted by Frank Merton on 20 February, 2013, 3:26
The whole venture was a huge waste of time and money just so the US could win over Russia. The world's technology is only now getting to the point where this sort of thing becomes reasonably worth while.
Comment icon #20 Posted by Major Payne on 20 February, 2013, 4:18
The "reason" may be dubious but the result was definitely worth it. Sometimes the reasons for doing something may not be the best at heart but if the end result is as amazing as walking on the Moon, then maybe the Space race was worth the dubious reason. Without the 2 superpowers battling to be first to the Moon, maybe the record books would have a German name as the first person on the Moon (they both took as much information from "Von Braun" as they could to advance their programs)
Comment icon #21 Posted by Bavarian Raven on 20 February, 2013, 14:55
About the ice thickness, most things I have read put the ice thickness at 2-5 miles. Which, if right, is a thickness we can deal with. And I for one look forward to this mission being launched within my lifetime
Comment icon #22 Posted by keithisco on 20 February, 2013, 16:58
Not quite Waspie, I was proposing 2 impactors (acoustic cannon, and Sonar Transponder), with only 1/10th the gravity of Earth and no appreciable atmospher the impactors to approach at very low speed (relatively) and embed in the ice, although this is not an essential requirement with an omnidirectional transponder. Not looking for a soft landing, and the instrumentation would not require it. I dont know, just an idea, I'll move on now
Comment icon #23 Posted by Frank Merton on 20 February, 2013, 17:03
Your point is well taken, and it may be that the loss of face that the Russians incurred, after they made the challenge, of having to abandon it, is part of why the Soviet Union as we then knew it no longer exists.
Comment icon #24 Posted by keithisco on 20 February, 2013, 17:22
Not quite right Major Payne.. The USA, UK, and Russia took everything that remained (Operation Paperclip) the German Authorities that remained had no access to, or knowledge of the projects as the knowledge was closely guarded by Himmler (Reichsfuhrer), and that which was discovered comprised of only those project notes and prototypes (or functional machines as in the case of the V2) that were not summarily destroyed.Germany was deprived of all access, as was France
Comment icon #25 Posted by Major Payne on 21 February, 2013, 2:08
Mine is a "Hypothetical" scenario keith. "Maybe" it would have been Germany "Maybe" not. None of us will ever know as this scenario never eventuated. Was not trying to rewrite history, sorry mate.
Comment icon #26 Posted by Mikami on 25 February, 2013, 16:45
Now THIS is something I'd spend money on!

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