All you wanted to know about NASA’s Europa Clipper, soon to be bound for Jupiter


Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system, but the focus of astronomers has not been that much on this gas giant as on other planets like Mars. The reason is simple – the Red Planet is considered as the best option for humanity to colonise another planet. Jupiter definitely is not on that list, as yet, but its moon Europa may well be one day.

NASA’s Europa Clipper will be bound for Jupiter and also do flybys of its moon Europa.

However, since this gargantuan planet is so important for the entire solar system, there are plans afoot, in the form of the Europa Clipper, to study it at a much deeper level and solve many questions about its role as well as composition. Most important of all, it should be borne in mind, that the basis of understanding starts with the fact that Jupiter is widely considered a failed sun. Were it to have acquired more material, it may well have turned into one. And, of course, Jupiter has a huge number of moons orbiting it and they, including Europa, have increasingly acquired significance.

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Europa Clipper Mission

Be that as it may, now the US space agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has revealed the exact status of its Jupiter plans. The Europa Clipper will be heading towards Jupiter soon. This mission actually started way back in 2013, but was officially confirmed by NASA in 2019.

Trip time

The Europa Clipper’s journey to Jupiter is expected to take about six years. Before that, NASA will also ensure it does a flyby of Mars. The spacecraft is expected to reach Jupiter in 2030. It will not only orbit Jupiter, it will also do flybys of Europa and in the process get as close as 16 miles (25 kilometers) from the moon’s surface. This will help it to gather data with an array of science instruments. NASA says the attempt would be to try and determine whether there are regions that could possibly support life.

What it will do

The mission is expected to reveal various mysteries about the ocean beneath the moon’s icy shell, apart from mapping Europa’s surface composition. Another mystery that will await a solution are suspected plumes of water vapor that may be venting there.

NASA says Europa is one of the most promising potentially habitable environments in our solar system, but it also pointed out that the Europa Clipper is not a life-detection mission and that it will only look for places below the surface that could support life.

In a few months time the spacecraft will be at the Kennedy Space Center and there the Europa Clipper will be prepared for launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. The entire process involves attaching its giant solar arrays and fitting everything inside the capsule on top of the rocket.

Main objectives

1. Determine the thickness of the moon’s icy shell and its surface interactions with the ocean below

2. Investigate its composition

3. Characterize Europa’s geology.


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