Europa is one of the most fascinating places in the Solar System, and is considered to be at or near the top of the list of worlds to search for possible evidence of life. Beneath its outer ice crust lies a deep and dark salty ocean, thought to be quite to Earth’s own oceans. Could that ocean be inhabited, even if just by microbes? Scientists want to know, and now a new proposal calls for a joint orbiter/lander mission between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency), to try to answer that question.
The proposal was presented on April 24 by Michel Blanc from France’s Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology in Toulouse, at the annual European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna, Austria. Called the Joint Europa Mission, it could launch in the mid-2020s and would be designed specifically to look for signs of life.
“The whole idea is that if we think exploring Europa for life is important, it should be an international adventure,” Blanc said. “The ultimate goal is to get to the surface and look for biosignatures of life.”
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