Europa, one of Jupiter’s 67 moons (not a typo!), is one of the most interesting bodies in our solar system. It’s covered with a thick, mostly smooth layer of ice with dark streaks crisscrossing the entire surface. What NASA finds most interesting is the fact that there is an ocean of liquid water under the ice. Water on Europa makes life on the icy moon a distinct possibility. Trust me, my parents sent me to Space Camp for my tenth birthday. Okay, it was actually the movie Spacecamp, but they didn’t tell me that ahead of time. I can’t believe they let me bring all that luggage into a movie theater.
Now, NASA is preparing to send a robotic mission to Europa to search for life. Astrophysicists (like Uproxx favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson) have been clamoring for this for years, but it wasn’t a viable option until now. Europa has no atmosphere, and the cold vacuum of space makes the surface ice as hard as rock. A robotic rover wouldn’t be able to drill through who knows how many miles of rock-hard ice to collect water samples. Luckily, we’ve recently discovered geysers of liquid water shooting from its surface. This would theoretically make the job much easier.
NASA is putting $15 million towards planning the mission to Europa. If all goes according to plan, we could be launching a rocket to the icy moon as early as 2025. The craft would reach Europa in the early 2030’s, which isn’t quite soon enough. Currently, the European Space Agency plans to launch its Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer (JUICE) on a mission to Europa in 2022. This international interest in space exploration is great for the future of our planet. Unfortunately, this could interfere with America’s intended mission to find primitive life and give it a reality show on TLC.