NASA reaches milestone in its mission to search for extraterrestrial life on Jupiter’s moon

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What is happening

NASA has completed construction of the main body of the Europa Clipper spacecraft.

why is it important

It’s a massive device that will be programmed to fly and investigate Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, an alien world that scientists believe may harbor extraterrestrial life.

It’s an aluminum cylinder the size of an SUV. It’s about as tall as a regulation basketball hoop and will have solar panels that, when extended, would fill an entire basketball court. It’s the largest NASA spacecraft ever developed for a planetary mission, and in October 2024 it’s set to travel to an alien world. many scientists deeply believe that it could harbor extraterrestrial life.

It’s called the Clipper and is heading for Europa, Jupiter’s icy moon.

NASA released some long-awaited images of the Clipper’s completed main body on Tuesday, calling it a “significant milestone” for the ambitious mission.

Scientists examining the Clipper spacecraft.

Engineers and technicians inspect the main body of NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

“This delivery brings us closer to the Europa Clipper launch and scientific investigation,” Jordan Evans, mission project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement.

Further fueling the excitement, the agency even shared a mesmerizing time-lapse video of the Clipper being transported from its birthplace at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory to the snowy clean rooms of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

You can clearly see the massive device brilliantly unveiled for the first time, locking into place for the next leg of its highly anticipated journey.

Why is Europa leading the quest to find aliens?

The smallest of Jupiter’s four moons, Europa is a much talked about world in the scientific community.

It’s just because study after study continues to offer evidence that this frigid floating sphere has ultra-promising conditions to support life. Extraterrestrial life.

Experts have found Jupiter’s companion, which is about 90% the size of our own moon, to have signs of the right chemical elements, such as carbon and hydrogen, to house living things. Moreover, they have gathered a wealth of concrete evidence that Europe has a important amount of water – about twice as much as all the Earth’s oceans combined.

clipperillus

This NASA illustration shows what the Europa Clipper will look like on the icy moon with Jupiter in the background, all solar panels extended.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

If they are there, according to NASA, Europa’s life forms could range from microbes to more complex beings. Nevertheless, the agency stresses that it is entirely reasonable to conclude that Something intriguing lurks on this orb. And he’s probably alive.

Together, that’s where the Europa hype comes from – and where Clipper’s mission is rooted.

What will NASA’s Clipper spacecraft do?

Once completed, Clipper will be integrated with nine scientific instruments ready to collect data on Europe’s atmosphere, surface and interior.

It will take Clipper about six years to make the 1.8 billion mile (2.9 billion kilometer) journey to the alien moon, but once there he will begin to investigate the secrets of Europa.

Europa Clipper thermal imager presented in a clean room.

Europa Clipper thermal imager displayed in a clean room at JPL.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA says that by using its 24 precision engines to complete nearly 50 flybys of the moon, Clipper will collect information to tell scientists what the depth and salt capacity of Europa’s oceans look like, as well as the thickness of the orb’s ice crust. This may even help to find out if there really are vents on the surface of the moon that blow underground water into space.

In fact, some of these instruments have already arrived at JPL, ready to be mounted on the spacecraft.

We have the Europa-UVS, for example, which is an ultraviolet spectrograph, and another called E-Themis, a thermal emission imaging instrument. This last one is a big one. It’s the device that can map the moon’s temperatures and decode exactly where all of Europe’s alleged water is.

Europa Clipper silver ultraviolet spectrograph.

The Europa Clipper ultraviolet spectrograph, called Europa-UVS. It’s the gray and silver metal box at the top right of the nadir bridge.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Although at this time NASA says they are still working on the main JPL module to make sure all the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted. “What happened at JPL is essentially an assembly phase in itself. Under APL’s leadership, this delivery includes work from that institution and two NASA centers,” Evans said. “Now the team will take the system to an even higher level of integration.”

Most of the work will likely be finished by the end of 2022, the team said, and if everyone is right about Europa’s glory, we could very well have the first evidence of extraterrestrial life in 2031.

In a preview of the Clipper mission in 2020, NASA bluntly stated, “We are about to explore what may be the best place in our solar system to search for life beyond Earth.

“This place is Europa, the moon of Jupiter.”

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