The search for extraterrestrial life just got a whole lot more exciting as NASA has just approved a mission to Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter. Europa is among the largest moons in the solar system and has long been considered as one of the likeliest places for life to evolve. That is because Europa is covered in a crust of water ice and all the evidence has consistently pointed towards the existence of a subterranean ocean below the crust which could be many miles deep.
The most interesting aspect about the moon is that it contains all the ingredients and conditions thought to favor the existence and evolution of life, i.e. liquid water, presence of constituent elements, energy derived from geological/tidal activity that arises from the gravitational tugs by its massive parent planet.
The mission, codenamed Europa Clipper will carry out flybys to conduct observations to determine various characteristics of the moon, such as atmospheric composition, magnetic field, and other terrestrial and geological features. The space probe won’t be able to orbit Europa as Jupiter’s radiation field would destroy any electronic instruments.
Following confirmation of the mission, NASA would move forward with planning the launch and finalize the designs of the spacecraft, decide upon the payload of instruments and set a launch date, which would be no sooner than 2023. Europe is one of the 79 known moons of the gas giant.