Complex and beautiful patterns adorn the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa, as seen in this color image intended to approximate how the satellite might appear to the human eye. The data used to create this view were acquired by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in 1995 and 1998.
CREDIT: NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk

NASA Eyes Mission to Jupiter Moon Europa

by Mike Wall, SPACE Senior Writer
Date: 13 December 2012 Time: 04:20 PM ET

SAN FRANCISCO — Though NASA is devoting many of its exploration resources to Mars these days, the agency still has its eye on an icy moon of Jupiter that may be capable of supporting life as we know it.

Last week, NASA officials announced that they plan to launch a $1.5 billion rover to Mars in 2020, adding to a string of Red Planet missions already on the docket. The Curiosity rover just landed this past August, for example, and an orbiter called Maven and a lander named InSight are slated to blast off in 2013 and 2016, respectively.

But NASA is also thinking about ways to investigate the possible habitability of Europa, Jupiter’s fourth-largest moon. One concept that may be gaining traction is a so-called “clipper” probe that would make multiple flybys of the moon, studying its icy shell and suspected subsurface ocean as it zooms past.

“We briefed [NASA] headquarters on Monday, and they responded very positively,” mission proponent David Senske, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said here Dec. 7 at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Read more: NASA Eyes Mission to Jupiter Moon Europa | Space.

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