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