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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

The Conservation Alliance

Destination Europa
Hugh Bollinger

Destination Europa

Europa Clipper artist concept (credit: JPL/CalTech)

Finding life beyond the Earth, exobiology, has been a quest for as long as people have pondered our position in the cosmos. One of the most intriguing places in the solar system is the ice-covered moon of Jupiter, Europa. Tantalizing photographs captured by the Galileo spacecraft suggest an entire global ocean under its cracked shell of water ice. A robotic mission to this putative 'water world' is in the design phase and will carry a tool-kit of hi-tech sensors, probes, and cameras to produce detailed maps of the moon's surface and interior.

The Jet Propulsion Lab at CalTech is designing and building the robotic spacecraft that will launch in a couple of years. The Europa Clipper, and go into orbit around Jupiter, not Europa, after a 3-year voyage. The probe will use the Jupiter's gravity to swing by the moon 45 times getting as close as 16 miles above its surface. The Clipper will survey the entire moon during its mission.

 

              Europa fractured surface and geyser plumes (credits: Galileo Mission & Hubble space telescope)

A diversity of instruments will investigate the icy moon. Radar will penetrate the ice to determine its thickness; a spectrograph could determine the chemistry of surface materials exuded from below; while others will measure salts in any ocean to inform the existence of a magnetic field around Europa. The Hubble space telescope has provided hints that a geyser field is spewing forth from the moon's south pole that could finally be proven and potentially sampled. Two videos detail the plans and excitement for this new space adventure.

We're bound for Europa. WHB

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