Credit: NASA-JPL

The study of existence of life on the planets and their moons in the solar system is an ever growing field. NASA is already studying habitability of several planets.

NASA is sending a mission to Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa. This mission aims to find whether the planet’s moon is habitable. The mission now gets a formal name.

NASA has named the mission as “Europa Clipper”.  The first part takes the name of the moon. The moniker relates to the clipper ships that sailed across the oceans in the 19th century. These clipper ships are streamlined, three-masted sailing vessels. They are renowned for their grace and also their swiftness. Clipper ships rapidly shuttled tea and also other goods back and forth, around the globe.

Alike the clipper ships, Europa Clipper would sail past Europa at a rapid rhythm, as frequently as two weeks. This will provide many opportunities to investigate the moon, up close. The basic and prime mission plan includes nearly 45 flybys. During this the spacecraft will image the moon’s icy surface at high resolution. It will also investigate its composition and also the structure of its interior icy shell.

Surface of Europa-the Icy Moon of Jupiter.
Source: NASA/ JPL

This is a high priority mission as Europa holds a salty liquid water ocean beneath its icy crust. The primary aim is to determine if the moon is habitable. This moon possesses all three ingredients essential for life: liquid water, chemical ingredients and also energy sources sufficient to enable biology.

Previously, the scientists informally called this by the same name. NASA has now adopted that name as the former title for the mission. The mission is planned for launch in the 2020s, arriving in the Jupiter system after a journey of several years.

NASA hopes that this mission-Europa Clipper, will also be as successful as its other mission, Juno.