By Anna Ellis • 09 June 2022 • 13:41
Life beyond earth: NASA's Europa shows strong evidence for ocean of liquid water beneath icy crust. Credit Wikimedia
Beyond Earth, Europa is considered one of the most promising places where we might find currently habitable environments in our solar system. The Europa Clipper will determine whether there are places below Europa’s surface that could support life.
NASA prepares spacecraft to travel to Jupiter’s icy moon and they have confirmed that the Europa Clipper will conduct detailed reconnaissance of Jupiter’s moon Europa and investigate whether the icy moon could harbour conditions suitable for life.
The spacecraft’s payload will include cameras and spectrometers to produce high-resolution images and composition maps of Europa’s surface and thin atmosphere, an ice-penetrating radar to search for subsurface water, and a magnetometer and gravity measurements to unlock clues about its ocean and deep interior.
The spacecraft will also carry a thermal instrument to pinpoint locations of warmer ice and perhaps recent eruptions of water, and instruments to measure the composition of tiny particles in the moon’s thin atmosphere and surrounding space environment.
The spacecraft, in orbit around Jupiter, will make nearly 50 flybys of Europa at closest-approach altitudes as low as 16 miles (25 kilometres) above the surface, soaring over a different location during each flyby to scan nearly the entire moon.
Europa Clipper will launch in October 2024 and will follow a Mars-Earth Gravity Assist (MEGA) trajectory. The spacecraft will travel for five and half years and arrive at Jupiter in April 2030.
With its massive solar arrays and radar antennas, Europa Clipper will be the largest spacecraft NASA has ever developed for a planetary mission. The spacecraft needs large solar arrays to collect enough light for its power needs as it operates in the Jupiter system, which is more than five times as far from the Sun as Earth.
The spacecraft will be about 16 feet (5 metres) in height. With its arrays deployed, the spacecraft spans more than 100 feet (30.5 metres) and has a dry mass (no propellant in the tanks) of 7,145 pounds (3,241 kg).
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Originally from the UK, Anna is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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