NASA Is Sending A Lander Is Heading To Europa To See If It Harbours Life
Europa is one of the four Galilean moons orbiting Jupiter. It’s one of the nearest places to us that may have life on it, and it’s this reason that NASA are looking to send a lander to the icy rock.
A beefy 264-page report by the NASA-employed SDT (Science Definition Team) show off their plans for the lander. It’s goal will be to land on Europa, drill approximately 10 centimeters into the crust and use special onboard instruments to analyse what the moon is made of. This is to ultimately find out about the chemical composition and to see if there is the ability for organic life. Obviously this is a rather integral part of seeing whether or not Europa is a good candidate for future colonisation.
If this mission is a success and all is well on Europa, NASA want to return with a more heavy duty lander and drill the 19 kilometers to the huge subsurface oceans roiling under the surface. As evidenced by our presence on Earth, where there is water there is, or was, (usually) life. Astronomer and SDT member Jonathan Lunine told Gizmodo “Europa provisionally is a great place to go.”
“It has a very large amount of rocks, it’s got a lot of heat [at its core], so at the base of the oceans there are undoubtedly hydrothermal systems. Everything we know about it makes this a good [place] to look for life.”
Doug Vakoch also spoke to Gizmodo, and agrees that Europa is a top contender for extraterrestrial life. However, he thinks the real juicy findings won’t happen until scientists get down to the ocean.
“To have the best chance of finding life on Europa, we’d love to be able to drill beneath the icy crust. That won’t happen with the first lander that NASA is now discussing, which would dig down only four inches.”
The SDT team hopes that this mission will launch as soon as 2031, after the scheduled Europa flyby mission in the early 2020s.