NASA has confirmed a mission to Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter, will indeed happen. The mission was initially explored starting in 2017, with the space agency looking for reports on how it might proceed, and now NASA has said it will go ahead and move to the key step of finalizing mission design, which will then lead to actually building the spacecraft that will make the trip, and the science payload it’ll carry on board.
The goal of the mission, which is codenamed “Europa Clipper,” is to find out whether the icy natural satellite orbiting Jupiter could sustain life, and also explore whether it might be colonizable or habitable. Plus, we’ll definitely learn a lot more about Europa with an up-close-and-personal exploration.
Europa is one of 79 known moons orbiting the gas giant, and is the sixth largest in the entire solar system. It’s a bit smaller than our own, and has a crust that is composed primarily of water ice. Some scientists believe that it could have a water ocean just underneath that ice crust, and that if said ocean exists, it might be among the likelier places in our solar system to find life.
NASA’s goal for this mission is to launch as early as 2023, though it’ll need its SLS launch system to be ready to make that happen. The extended timeline allows for a launch-ready state by 2025, which seems a bit more realistic given the current state of affairs.