Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A trove to discover a treasure NASA’s Europa Clipper – ready to explore Jupiter’s moon

The hope for Europa having life is big. And now the hope for NASA is that the 2016 budget, as least as far as the Europa Clipper is concerned, is approved. It probably will be. I think. I hope. Europa is one of the most exciting worlds on our current list of places to check out. I am only saddened that the current Clipper won’t be exploring the seas though no doubt if this one goes well and the results indicate favorable situations the next might be a space submarine.

When visiting NASA for an event back last December I had asked one scientist who was working on some really cool things on other planets, if the Europa Clipper was advancing. She was happy to talk about it as the idea excited her even more than me. Apparently they were all asked to make up a wish list of tools they “wanted “on Europa. Then NASA took on the unpleasant task of making it leaner until they had something that met their criteria – from 33 they took the number of tools down to 9 gadgets.

Keep in mind the goal is to decide if the moon could support life and so the hope is to find a few key indicators – such as;; salt water, a rocky sea floor and energy & chemistry created by tidal heating.. The tools planned include, in addition to the obvious cameras and spectrometers to photograph the moon, a magnetometer to locate Europa’s magnetic field and measure the direction and the strength of it. ALSO – penetrating radars such as the ones used to locate the subsurface lakes beneath Antarctica, will search for thesame only on Europa. Other instruments are planned that will search for eruptions of warm water s, tiny particles and all sorts of cool things that may hold the answers.

Remember the explanation for how we know that Europa houses an ocean beneath its ice? The water plumes that extended out into space where the Hubble than picked up the hydrogen & oxygen atoms flying free in space – well, the mission will also be on the look-out for any ongoing water plumes from a subsurface ocean, to help scientists study Europa's chemical makeup key to unlocking whether its environment could support life..

Europa sounds like an eerie yet awesome world, literally and figuratively. AND  


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