NASA is yet again bringing the scientific community together as they make a community announcement regarding the Europa lander mission. The announcement gives the scientific community an opportunity to contribute to the planning of the NASA mission.
NASA has not yet completed a plan regarding the implementation and scope of a Europa mission. To maximize the opportunity of studying Jupiter's icy moon, NASA is calling on the scientific community to think of the best instruments that may fulfill and maximize the goals of the mission.
The announcement is an advance notice for interested parties who would like to join the competition where their proposals may be considered by NASA for instrument investigations for a possible Europa lander mission.
The submissions will be evaluated through a two-step competitive process to ensure that the instruments proposed are compatible with the mission. Approximately 10 proposals will be chosen for Step 2 Phase A, which will last for 12 months with a budget of $1.5 million per investigation.
Each proposal that will undergo the instrument investigation must address NASA's science objectives for the mission, listed below in order of priority:
• Search Europa for evidence of life
• Assess the habitability of Europa using in situ techniques that are uniquely available to the lander mission
• Characterize the subsurface and surface properties at the lander's scale
All proposals submitted in response to the competition must focus on Europa and must be compatible with a mission that will land on Europa's surface on a monthlong mission.
NASA will hold an in-depth workshop for anyone interested in participating in the mission, where they will be briefed on the current available information and have an arena to ask their queries to the mission developers. The workshop is planned for the summer of 2017, and the selection of the 10 Phase A studies is expected to occur by June 2018.
Participation is open to both domestic and foreign organizations.
Europa lander mission is separate from the Europa Clipper mission, which is a fly-by mission that is expected to take flight by the early 2020s. The Europa Clipper is already in its preliminary design phase, and has so far been planned to do 45 flybys of Europa at altitudes of between 1,700 miles and 16 miles above the surface.
Nine instruments have already been chosen for the Europa Clipper mission, which would study Europa's icy shell, measure its magnetic field and the salinity of its ocean, and produce high-resolution images of Europa's surface to determine its composition.
Though the current law states that NASA should plan for a Europa lander mission, the administration's proposed budget for the fiscal year of 2018 does not completely support it.