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NASA has been making plans to explore Europa, the Jupiter moon that was hosting water for quite a while. Now, they announced that their mission was set for launching in 2020. They also revealed the name of the project: Europa Clipper.
NASA explains the choice of “clipper”
NASA chose the name “Europa Clipper” as a homage for clipper ships from 19th century which roamed the oceans on the globe. These ships were quick and transported several goods across the Atlantic Ocean and to many other places all around the world. NASA revealed that they chose this name for the swiftness and grace of the ships.
Initially, the mission was referred to informally as the “Europa Clipper, which probably led to it being stuck”. In the end, they made a choice and an official statement in which they announced that they had opted for Europa Clipper as the name of the mission.
The goals of the Europa mission
The astronomers expect that this mission will help them find out more about the actual habitability of the moon, as well as bring answers to the questions regarding the ocean found on it. Since the astronomers discovered that Jupiter might have some of the necessary conditions for supporting life, this mission has become one of the most prioritized.
Scientists believe that, beneath the thick layer of ice on the surface of Europa, there might be an ocean with the suitable environment for extraterrestrial life. On March 2nd, the scientists announced that their mission was now much closer to its final step, after solving all the design issues.
Europa Clipper will pass near the moon of Jupiter every two weeks, so that it should provide the optimal investigation. There are going to be around 45 or 50 flybys, during which the spacecraft will capture high resolution images of the surface of the moon. Afterwards, it will analyze the composition and the structure of the icy surface.
However, the spacecraft will perform quick flybys near Europa, so that it will not be exposed for such a long period to the radiations in the moon’s environment.
NASA scheduled the Europa Clipper mission to be launched in 2020. They have not revealed an official date yet, but they will make it public some time closer to the moment of launching.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons