Tags: europa | moon | mission | jupiter | nasa

Europa Moon Mission: NASA Plans Jupiter Moon Trip Within Next Decade

Thursday, 06 Mar 2014 01:11 PM

By Michael Mullins

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Jupiter's moon Europa is considered by many to be the celestial body most likely to host an alien life form within our solar system. On Tuesday, NASA announced that it hopes to launch a mission to Jupiter's moon by the mid-2020s.

"Europa is a very challenging mission operating in a really high radiation environment, and there's lots to do to prepare for it," NASA Chief Financial Officer Beth Robinson told reporters Tuesday, Space.com reported. "We're looking for a launch sometime in the mid-2020s."

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In its 2015 federal budget request released Tuesday, the White House allocated $15 million for the Europa mission.

The allocation is a fraction of the funds required to launch the mission; Robinson estimates the expedition would cost upwards of $17.5 billion.

"I know people have asked about the total size [of the possible mission], and we're frankly just not sure at this point," Robinson added.

According to the NASA CFO, the agency would approach others in the scientific community to assist in the operation, Space.com noted.

Discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610, Europa is the sixth-largest moon in the solar system, with an approximate width of 1,900 miles. It contains what scientists say is an ocean of water 100 miles deep that is likely hidden beneath 10 to 15 miles of Europa's icy crust.

In December, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope observed giant plumes of water erupting more than 20 times higher than Mount Everest on Europa's surface.

Scientists believe that since on Earth there is life virtually wherever there is water, evidence of water on Europa could mean life forms exist there as well.

Europa is the second Jupiter moon with evidence of water.

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In June 2012, NASA's Cassini spacecraft found strong evidence of an ocean of water beneath the frozen crust of Saturn's largest moon Titan.

Much like its sister moon, the Titan's water bodies are believed to be buried beneath miles of ice and composed of liquid hydrocarbons, such as methane and ethane, in addition to water.

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