NASA has made the first step towards the important mission where astronomers will try to determine if there is life on Jupiter’s icy moon known as Europa.
The scientists had to choose from a big selection of tools to use for this mission and decided on nine instruments and special sensors.
NASA will be using these tools to try to find out if there is an ocean under the frozen crust of Jupiter’s icy moon.
The researchers also want to determine whether the low temperatures of the mysterious moon would allow the existence of life forms.
According to NASA, the mission to Europa will cost about $30 million and the plan is to send a spacecraft that is solar-powered to Jupiter’s moon by year 2022.
The spacecraft doesn’t have a name yet but scientists say that it will orbit around Jupiter for a long period of time. The spacecraft will perform 45 close flybys around Europa and the journey will take approximately three years.
The spacecraft will fly at altitudes of 25 km to 2,700 km.
The instruments chosen by the astronomers to determine if Jupiter’s icy moon hosts any life include a set of special cameras and different spectrometers.
These instruments will be used to capture HD photos of icy moon’s surface and scientists hope that they will also determine the planet’s chemical composition.
NASA added that the tools will also be used to analyze the plumes of water that shoot out from Europa’s frozen surface, a phenomenon detected by the Hubble space telescope back in 2012.
Some scientists believe that if the plumes of water, which resemble geysers, are what they appear to be, Europa would be the best candidate for harboring alien life.
The geyser-like eruptions shoot streams of salt water up to 200 km high.
NASA spacecraft will be equipped with a special radar designed to penetrate the thick icy surface of the moon and search for underground lakes, similar to those found in Antarctica.
The team of astronomers will also use a magnetometer to measure the direction and strength of the moon’s magnetic field. This will help the scientists determine how deep and how saline Europa’s oceans are.
Curt Niebur, NASA scientist in charge of the Europa project, explained that this is a very important step in the search of extraterrestrial life. He hopes that the mission will help determine whether there is life on Jupiter’s icy moon.
Image Source: gizmag