New Budget Could See NASA Planning A Mission To Europa
Around $15million has been set aside in NASA's FY 2015 budget proposal for the development of an unmanned mission to Jupiter's moon, Europa. The icy moon has long been thought to have the potential for hosting life and scientists and space exploration enthusiasts have been calling on NASA to develop a mission to explore the possibility. While no details have been confirmed, NASA's CFO Elizabeth Robinson said that the mission would have an expected launch date some time in the mid 2020's.
"...pre-formulation work for a potential mission to Jupiter's moon, Europa." is all that is listed in NASA's $17.5 billion budget proposal, but even those few words will be music to the ears of many who are keen to learn what is held under the moon's Icy surface.
What form the mission will take is not yet known, but many expect that NASA will seek to explore the plumes of liquid water that were recently discovered shooting out from Europa's surface. One thing is likely though, this will essentially be a fly by mission that, if we are lucky, may look to take a sample of the moon's surface by way of a robotic lander.
Despite the appearance of a Europa mission on the President's budget proposal, it is by no means a lock. Ultimately the budget will be decided by Congress who, in the past at least, have not been keen on the idea.
"I would not be overly optimistic until I see the words 'We want to go to Europa' from the Administration." said NASA Planetary Scientist Alyssa Rhoden. Indeed, the problem with a mission to Europa is not only the relatively high cost (around $2 billion), but the fact that it does not even officially register on the agency's long-term plans...despite having been discussed for more than a decade. However there is a growing feeling that the exploration of Mars is starting to run its course and, while there is still much to learn on the Red Planet, attentions must start shifting to areas that could yield some more exciting results.
See the link below for NASA's full FY15 budget proposal: