Space & Astronomy
ESA scientists set their sights on Europa
By T.K. Randall
April 20, 2016 · 13 comments
What lies beneath Europa's icy crust ? Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
An upcoming NASA mission to Jupiter's icy moon is offering ESA a unique opportunity for exploration.
When it comes to seeking out signs of extraterrestrial life within our own solar system, no target has proven more tantalizing than Jupiter's moon Europa - a world thought to be home to a potentially habitable ocean of liquid water hidden deep beneath a thick icy exterior shell.
So far the only spacecraft to have visited Europa have remained high up in orbit, but now NASA, which has long had an interest in exploring the moon further, is planning to launch a brand new mission in the 2020s and is offering ESA an opportunity to come along for the ride.
While it isn't clear exactly what type of mission NASA will send, it is likely that it will consist of at least an orbiter and possibly even a soft lander that might launch separately a couple of years later.
European scientists are now also working on developing their own add-on mission with ideas ranging from remote-sensing instruments to a robotic probe that can melt through the ice.
"One thing is true: we are very enthusiastic about proposing something, and proposing for that mission which will land on Europa for the first time in the space age," said Michel Blanc from the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology in Toulouse.
"It's going to be a big event, and I am sure it is going to be a big priority for the world community."
Source: BBC News
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