NASA has confirmed the next phase of development of the Europa Clipper mission – an interplanetary mission to Jupiter’s smallest moon Europa. The US space agency has cleared the mission to progress through its final design phase, followed by the construction and testing of the entire spacecraft.
The latest development comes over 2 years after NASA originally announced its plans for the Galilean moon. To recall, NASA had announced the Europa Clipper mission back in March 2017. The mission will be conducting an in-depth exploration of Jupiter’s moon Europa and investigate whether the icy moon can have suitable conditions for sustaining life and increase our insights in to astrobiology.
NASA targets to have the Europa Clipper spacecraft ready for launch early by 2023. The space agency had earlier committed a launch date by 2025.
The space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California leads the development of the Europa Clipper mission in partnership with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory for the Science Mission Directorate. The mission is managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
“We are all excited about the decision that moves the Europa Clipper mission one key step closer to unlocking the mysteries of this ocean world,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington recently said in a statement. “We are building upon the scientific insights received from the flagship Galileo and Cassini spacecraft and working to advance our understanding of our cosmic origin, and even life elsewhere,” he said.
Jupiter’s Galilean moon Europa consists of a huge ocean of liquid water beneath its icy shell. The water is in contact with the rocky core of the moon, which according to space scientists, make a range of interesting chemical reactions possible. Hence astrobiologists consider 1,940-miles-wide (3,120 kilometres) Europa moon to be one of the best bets to host alien life in the solar system, according to a report by Space.com.
This apart, NASA had recently shared new pictures of Jupiter, which were taken by the Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 when the planet was 400 million miles from Earth on June 27, 2019. Earlier this month, Jupiter was possibly hit by an asteroid and the impact was captured by astronomer Ethan Chappel, who captured the event using his Celestron 8 telescope before it faded away.
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