A new NASA probe will explore a mysterious moon of Jupiter which scientists believe could be one of the likeliest places in our solar system for life to lurk.
The icy moon Europa has been picked out by NASA as one of the most likely places to find life in our solar system, due to an ocean of liquid water beneath the surface.
This week, NASA announced that the go-ahead for the Europa Clipper had been given, meaning that the spacecraft will be built.
Thomas Zurbuchen, an associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at Nasa’s headquarters in Washington said, ‘We are all excited about the decision that moves the Europa Clipper mission one key step closer to unlocking the mysteries of this ocean world.’
‘We are building upon the scientific insights received from the flagship Galileo and Cassini spacecraft and working to advance our understanding of our cosmic origin, and even life elsewhere.’
The probe is expected to launch in 2025, but could be ready by 2022, the space agency said.
Previously, researchers suggested firing a ‘penetrator’ into the ice to find biosignatures, but Clipper will instead orbit the moon.
The mission will orbit Jupiter and monitor Europa with about 45 close flybys.
The spacecraft will carry cameras, spectrometers, plasma and radar instruments to investigate the composition of the moon’s surface, its ocean, and material that has been ejected from the surface.