IS EUROPA HABITABLE? A NASA PROBE TO FIND OUT NASA's planned mission will be launched in the mid-2020s

  • Italiano

The idea of living in other planets has now become almost an obsession for many, from those planning missions – suicide missions – to colonize Mars, to the ones who want to colonize Europa, the sixth moon of the planet Jupiter. In fact, NASA announced that they are going to send a space probe to the satellite, with nine scientific instruments that will investigate its habitability. The space probe will be launched in the mid-2020s, it will be equipped with high-definition mapping cameras, a heat detector, an ice-penetrating radar, and other instruments that will help scientists examine the characteristics and formation of surface features of the Jupiter’s moon and to characterize the nature of water within or beneath the icy surface of the satellite.

According to astrobiologists, Europa would be the solar system’s best bet to harbor microbial extraterrestrial life. Beneath its icy surface, in fact, there would be a salty ocean in contact with the rocky mantle of the moon, and this, according to scientists, could make possible a series of complex chemical reactions. Most of the current knowledge of Europa is based on data collected by the mission Galileo that orbited Jupiter in 1989.

The new mission would probably cost about $2 billion – a space probe will be launched to orbit Jupiter. The probe should conduct between 32 to 48 flybys of Europa in the course of two years and a half. The probe will have at its disposal two cameras, a wide-angle camera and a low-angle one, that will allow to map 90% of the surface of Europa. Galileo during its mission had managed to map only 10% of the satellite’s surface.

Translation provided by Maria Rosaria Mastropaolo

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