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NASA: Damn the Monoliths, Full Speed Ahead to Europa


Jupiter moon Europa. Image: NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk

ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOUR EXCEPT EUROPA ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE.

That warning, as given in Arthur C. Clarke's 2010: Odyssey Two novel, was pretty explicit but apparently it is going to go unheeded by NASA.

According to Space.com, NASA wants to launch a mission to Europa by 2025. Yesterday's White House 2015 federal budget request allocates $15 million to develop a space program to visit the icy moon of Jupiter, which has a potentially life-supporting ocean of liquid water underneath its icy exterior.

"Europa is a very challenging mission operating in a really high radiation environment, and there's lots to do to prepare for it," said NASA chief financial officer Beth Robinson. "We're looking to launch sometime in the mid-2020s."


Artist's concept of the Europa Clipper mission. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

While the space program is wide open, one candidate project is NASA's Europa Clipper, a probe that would orbit Jupiter and make flyby trips to Europa to study the moon's environment. An exciting potential is to have the probe cruise through Europa's 125-mile-high water plumes, spotted by Hubble back in December 2013, to collect and analyze samples.


Artist's concept of Europa water vapor plume. Image: NASA/ESA/K. Retherford/SWRI


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