Introducing the Europa Clipper: The Spacecraft That Will Search for Life on Jupiter’s Icy Moon

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There is one object in our solar system that fascinates scientists but doesn’t get as much press in the mainstream media as it should and that is Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.

Photo by Planet Volumes

Long theorized to contain subsurface oceans of water that could harbor life, Europa was featured prominently in 2001: A Space Odyssey and has been a target for scientific exploration for quite some time. As you can imagine, the logistics involved are immense but, before we get to thinking about how we are going to get a probe to the surface and into the water below, we need to make sure we know what we’re facing.

Enter the Europa Clipper, NASA’s project to determine if that planet harbors conditions necessary to create life. The reasons behind this are manifold but primarily rest upon the fact that Europa is believed to have a large, saltwater ocean, energy, and the chemical processes facilitated by all of this. Scientists believe that the subsurface oceans have more saltwater in them than all of Earth’s oceans combined and they theorize that the tidal effect produced by the moon’s rotation around Jupiter provides the energy necessary to sustain life. How big of a deal would finding life on Europa be? Absolutely huge, and for the simple reason that it would intimate to scientists that the building blocks and process for creating life are more common in the universe than previously thought according to Ron Pappalardo.

“If there is life in Europa, it almost certainly was completely independent from the origin of life on Earth… that would mean that the origin of life must be pretty easy throughout the galaxy and beyond.”

Know more about space than we do? Please teach us more. If you have anything you’d like to add about Europa, please feel free to do so in the comments below.

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[NASA]

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