Is NASA Planning A Landing On Europa?
Sci-Fi's Europa Report has really thrust Jupiter's moon into the limelight since its release, but many forget that NASA has been particularly interested in the icy moon for quite a while. Now, a new paper reiterates the potential scientific benefit of placing a lander on Europa.
The attraction of Europa lies in its Icy exterior, which many believe could be covering vast oceans of water and, as scientists like to remind us, where there is water, there could be life. And therein lies the crux of a potential lander-based mission to Europa, to understand whether or not it could support life. According to the paper, the key to gaining these answers lies in drilling to two different levels of the ice layer (0.5cm - 2cm and 5cm - 1-cm), which would allow a team to "understand its detailed composition and chemistry and the specific nature of salts, any organic materials and any other contaminants."
The paper recognizes that before a lander could be placed on Europa, significant researching and mapping of the Icy moon would need to be carried out. While NASA is yet to officially confirm plans for a mission, many believe that Europa holds our best chance of discovering signs of life within our solar system. This latest paper is merely the latest step towards human exploration of a moon that lies over 390 million miles away from Earth.