NASA Taps SpaceX for a Mission to Investigate One of Jupiter's Moons


 NASA Taps SpaceX for a Mission to Investigate One of Jupiter's Moons

NASA has selected SpaceX as the launch services provider for its first mission to investigate one of Jupiter's moons, Europa, to determine whether or not life could survive on it.

SpaceX will help NASA launch a Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A in October 2024, per the announcement, in exchange for roughly $178 million. Then it's up to the specially designed Europa Clipper spacecraft to investigate Europa's surface.

NASA said that "Europa Clipper will conduct a detailed survey of Europa and use a sophisticated suite of science instruments to investigate whether the icy moon has conditions suitable for life." The key phrase there is "icy moon"—NASA wants to see if there's an ocean under all that ice.

Europa Clipper will specifically attempt to "produce high-resolution images of Europa's surface, determine its composition, look for signs of recent or ongoing geological activity, measure the thickness of the moon’s icy shell, search for subsurface lakes, and determine the depth and salinity of Europa's ocean," NASA said. More information is available on the mission's website.

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All of those factors are meant to help determine if Europa has what NASA identified as three vital ingredients for life as we know it: water, chemistry, and energy. Jupiter has a total of 79 moons, but Europa is unique in that it could be our best chance at finding signs of life outside of Earth.

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