Mission to Europa

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NASA has plans to launch a satellite headed to Europa! The Europa Clipper is planned to complete 45 flybys around Europa at varying heights above the surface (16 miles to 1,700 miles) and collect crucial data about Jupiter’s large moon. Scientists are hoping to gather information about the planet’s icy crust, its depth, and what lies underneath; astronomers are fairly certain that an ocean exists under the thick ice. Nine scientific instruments will be aboard this satellite and will measure the planet’s magnetic field (to determine size and salinity of the underground ocean), temperature, and composition. These characteristics will hopefully help astronomers and scientists weigh the possibility of life existing somewhere on Europa. These findings will also help astronomers make the decision of what comes next? If the satellite discovers a habitat conducive to living organisms, NASA may want to start planning for another trip to Europa; this time, to drill into the icy surface and make observations about the watery depths.

NASA Europa Clipper Mission

Europa Video

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3 thoughts on “Mission to Europa

  1. Cool! I also did a blog post about Europa. I mentioned that Europa was seen to be shooting plumes of water into space in 2013, but that hasn’t been seen since. I wonder if this mission can confirm or deny the geological activity of Europa!

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    1. I’m sure it would have been included in the list of scientific instruments if it were part of the mission plan, but my imagination still says it would be very cool if Clipper flew through one of the water plumes and captured and analyzed some of the water/ice drops.

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  2. I was also interested in why the mission plan for Clipper was described as “multiple flyby” rather than a Europa orbiter. According to the Wikipedia page I read, the orbit around Europa would have exposed the space craft to more radiation than an orbit around Jupiter. I am a little confused because an orbit around Europa would also be an orbit around Jupiter, so why would the radiation be any different? Maybe the current mission plan keeps the satellite farther away from Jupiter longer in an elliptical orbit.

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