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NASA New Mission Named 'Europa Clipper' Aims to Investigate Habitability of Jupiter's Icy Moon

Mar 14, 2017 09:32 AM EDT
Galileo's Last Mission
NASA will send a mission to Jupiter's icy moon Europa. The mission is now officially called Europa Clipper.
(Photo : NASA/Newsmakers)

Mankind's search for potentially habitable bodies outside Earth led to the discovery of some interesting moons, such as Jupiter's icy moon Europa. NASA dedicated a whole mission to find out if the moon indeed has an ocean of liquid water and if it is habitable. The agency officially named the mission "Europa Clipper."

It was called Clipper after the name of the ships that sailed across the oceans here on the planet during the 19th century. The streamlined vessels are world renowned due to their swiftness at sea. Clipper transported tea and other cargo across the Atlantic Ocean with ease.

Europa Clipper would sail across space. According to NASA, the spacecraft would sail beyond Europa at a rapid pace as often as every two weeks. This will give researchers ample time to investigate the composition of the moon. The mission is composed of about 40 to 45 flybys where the spacecraft will take high-resolution images of the Europa's icy surface.

Earlier this year, NASA discovered water plumes emanating from the moon. This increased the possibility of having oceans in Europa. Other NASA research points out that Europa may have salty liquid water underneath its icy shell.

"During each orbit, the spacecraft spends only a short time within the challenging radiation environment near Europa. It speeds past, gathers a huge amount of science data, then sails on out of there," Robert Pappalardo, Europa Clipper's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a press release.

The mission moved past the initial planning stage and is now in its design phase. Scientists had always called the mission Europa Clipper but it is only today that it was formally given its official name. The $2 billion mission is expected to launch in 2020 to journey towards Europa for a few years.

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