NASA to explore Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer 

Europa’s ice has steam bursting through it.

NASA is planning a historic robotic mission to a tiny watery moon called Europa, which is orbiting the solar system’s largest planet, Jupiter. Scientists hope to find life on Europa, especially since it has one of the rare ingredients for life – water. The mission, if fully funded, would be launched sometime in the 2020s.

It won’t be easy, though, since the spacecraft will have to overcome quite a few challenges to reach Europa. Not only is it far from Earth at a distance of roughly 390 million miles, but Jupiter’s toxic atmosphere gives off powerful radiation that could mess with electronics.

Back in 1989, NASA sent a spacecraft to Jupiter called Galileo, which is named after the famous 17th century astronomer and physicist, Galileo Galilei. However, this new mission would actually try to get on Europa itself and gather data. See, scientists have found liquid plumes of water bursting through Europa’s ice, through which they hope to possibly navigate the spacecraft. NASA has requested $15 million to begin pre-planning for a Europa mission, but building an orbiter could cost as much as $5 billion. So, nothing’s finalized yet!

Images courtesy of NASA.