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Scientists write a hypothetical Europa landing mission report

They hope to persuade NASA for a chance to land on the gas giant’s Moon
pia19048_0
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

A recent report highlights the amazing possibilities for a Europa lander in the quest for life on other worlds.

There are currently plans in process for a Europa flyby mission to launch in 2020, but a flyby can’t directly test for life. By being on the surface, the lander could determine if the chemistry for life — past, present, or future — is on the moon

With proper equipment, such as imagers and specialized microscopes, a lander on Europa could search for organic molecules, possible cellular life, and study the general composition of the surface.

Another point of interest is the potential ocean hypothesized thanks to Voyager I and the Galileo spacecraft during its mission in the 1990’s. More specifically, the team is interested in learning if the ocean has hydrothermal vents, a fissure typically found near volcanically active places. The cold seawater and the hot geothermal liquids combining together cause reactions that create fine-grained particles that, in turn, form columns. In the past, scientists found ecosystems, some that were deemed vital to life’s origins, near the vents.

As of right now, a landing mission on Europa is just a concept and the paper was just a way to bring the idea to NASA’s attention. Should the mission be approved, it would still take about five years, with gravity assists from Earth and Jupiter, for a lander to make it to Europa.

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