NASA has a few ambitious projects in the works and a planned Europa mission is one of the most intriguing. Europa is one of the largest moons in the solar system and scientists are hoping that the Jovian moon may have the capacity to support life.
Last Tuesday NASA announced that it is planning to launch a mission to Europa by 2025. The moon has an icy crust and many scientists believe that there is sufficient evidence to support the theory that the moon may have a subsurface ocean.
"Jupiter's moon Europa has a crust made up of blocks, which are thought to have broken apart and 'rafted' into new positions, as shown in the image on the left," says NASA. "These features are the best geologic evidence to date that Europa may have had a subsurface ocean at some time in its past."
Both NASA and the White House are currently backing the Europa mission, which has been submitted to Congress for approval. The mission was included in the 2015 federal budget request submitted by the White House. According to the budget request, the White House plans to allocate around $15 million to bankrolling the proposed mission. The Europa mission is one of many NASA priority projects currently in the works.
"In the coming year, we'll build on our nation's record of breathtaking and compelling scientific discoveries and achievements in space, with science missions that will reach far into our solar system, reveal unknown aspects of our universe and provide critical knowledge about our home planet," says NASA administrator Charles Bolden. "It includes funding for missions to Mars and the formulation for a mission to Jupiter's moon, Europa. It also funds science missions already heading toward destinations such as Jupiter and Pluto and operating throughout the solar system, a mission to study our planet's magnetic system, and steady progress on the James Webb Space Telescope."
NASA is currently exploring a number of possible options for exploring Europa. However, the initial requested budget will be nowhere near the total amount of money needed for the mission itself. NASA has explored a number of possible concepts for exploring Europa in the past and both a flyby and a landing mission will cost more than a billion dollars. A proposed clipper flyby mission was estimated to cost around $2 billion while actually landing on the moon will set the US government back by approximately $2.8 billion.