Europa’s fabled ocean has inspired science fiction movies and actual space missions alike — and yet we aren’t even sure it exists. NASA has gotten so curious, it recently greenlit a mission to Europa that’ll hopefully settle the matter once and for all. And the space agency has just produced an excellent video explaining why we should care.
While the main thrust of the Europa mission, which NASA aims to launch by the mid-2020s, involves characterizing the icy satellite from afar during dozens of flybys, the space agency is considering sending a small probe down to the surface as well.
NASA has announced on Wednesday that the planning for the Europa project has reached the formulation phase, which means the space agency will push through with the development of the mission design and requirements. Once mission receives its final approval, the launch date of the space probe could be scheduled for the 2020s.
Jupiter’s moon Europa is covered in a thick layer of constantly-shifting ice which appears to be floating atop a deep, warm ocean. Scientists have long suggested that it’s the most likely place that life might have evolved beyond Earth. And now, at last, NASA has confirmed our first mission to Europa has entered the development phase.
Like mad scientists armed with dry-erase markers, NASA's smartest spacecraft wizards gather to brainstorm to answer an essential question of humanity - are we alone? - NASA will have to venture to distant, exotic worlds.
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