NASA is sending a new craft to Jovian moon Europa that may detect alien life.
In October 2024, Nasa is due to launch a new mission designated “Europa Clipper” to investigate the Galilean moon that circles Jupiter every 83 hours.
Clipper, which Forbes said is about the size of an SUV, is scheduled to reach Europa around March 7 in 2031, after nearly a seven-year journey.
The mission, which will set Nasa back by $4.25 billion, will explore Europa’s terrain – from the ocean’s salinity levels to the chemical composition of its ice crust.
Searching for organics compounds like sulfates and carbonates is also on the agenda for the orbiter, which will perform repeated flybys of the icy moon.
“Clipper will conduct detailed reconnaissance of Jupiter’s moon Europa and investigate whether the icy moon could have conditions suitable for life,” Nasa writes on its mission website.
Nasa scientists say that Europa is an ideal candidate for hosting alien life because it possesses the “ingredients essential for life: water, chemistry, and energy.”
The researchers predict that a salty ocean lies beneath Europa’s surface which contains more water “than Earth’s oceans combined.”
Furthermore, because Jupiter has such a powerful gravitational pull, it can create tides on Europa that produce heat.
Still, researchers say there’s a lot more to learn about the celestial body.
“We don’t understand a lot about how Europa works, so our mental picture of it is sure to be wrong,” planetary scientist Robert Pappalardo, the Europa Clipper project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told Forbes.
“Our view of Europa is going to be reshaped when we get there,” he added.
Europa is the smallest of Jupiter’s four Galilean moons – the gas giant has 79 moons in total.
The celestial body was discovered in 1610 by astronomer Galileo Galilei.
Europa was named after the Phoenician mother of King Minos of Crete.
NASA could find signs of alien life on 2024 mission to mysterious Jupiter moon, scientists say| THE SUN