National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) carefully chose nine scientific tools that will be used on the mission to one of Jupiter’s moons – Europa. Europa mission is created to investigate the possibility that the icy moon has great chances of sustaining life.
Earlier this year, scientists found out that Europa has tantalizing icy surface and it has vast ocean just below that solid surface. According to John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s science mission directorate in Washington, DC, “We have gathered amazing data from 11 flybys of the Galileo spacecraft over a decade ago and recent Hubble observations, suggesting plumes of water shooting out from the moon.”
The main plan of the Europa mission is to send a solar-powered spacecraft in orbit around the Solar system’s gas giant – Jupiter. They expect it to be a long and quiet journey for the spacecraft. And during that orbit, the spacecraft will perform near flybys of Europa over a three-year time span making a total of 45 flybys with altitudes ranging from 25 to 2,700 kilometers.
NASA said in a statement that, “The payload of selected science instruments includes cameras and spectrometers to produce high-resolution images of Europa’s surface and determine its composition.”
Furthermore, they will send an ice-penetrating radar that will analyze the thickness of the moon’s icy shell and detect the presence of subsurface waters, like lakes or seas, much alike to that present beneath Antarctica.
In addition to these devices, they will be equipped with a magnetometer that will determine the exact strength and direction of the moon’s magnetic field. This will help Europa mission scientists study the depth and salinity of the moon’s subsurface ocean.
To make things more exciting, they will use a thermal instrument to find any occurrence of recent warm water eruptions on the frozen surface of Europa.
The other equipment will be used to find evidence of water, tiny particles and important elements on the moon’s atmosphere.
NASA’s Galileo mission provided strong evidence of a subsurface ocean on Europa. However, they still have no clue on how thick below the crust will it take them to find this mysterious ocean.
If the subsurface ocean really does exist, scientists predict that it contains twice as much water as that present on Earth. But take into account that Europa is only as big the Earth’s moon.
To what they currently know, Europa is rich in salt water, rocky sea floor, and tidal heating. It also contains great energy and chemistry leading scientists to believe that it can harbor life such as our own.
Europa is possibly the nearest and best place in the Solar System if humans needed to find a second home.
Source: Economic Times