The world has long been captivated by the idea that there may be life on other planets, and NASA has unveiled a plan to discover life within our solar system.
During the Galileo Mission to Jupiter and its moons in the 1990s, scientists found evidence suggesting that there is an ocean on one of its moons, Europa. However, if there is an ocean, it would likely be buried under 11 to 15 miles of ice—and NASA plans to dig down into the moon’s crust to see if any alien sea life dwells within it.
Scientists think the water beneath Europa’s crust is a likely bet for alien life, whether it is complex or simply microbial. The ocean, if it is exists; might actually be salty and therefore hospitable to life. Those who have studied Europa also think that the moon produces hydrogen and oxygen, or is at least capable of doing so. This means life may just lurk beneath the surface.
They also expect that the oceans on Europa have twice as much water as the oceans on Earth, so there is potentially a whole lot of exploring to do. And although they likely won’t be able to see much of the ocean if it does exist, samples collected will confirm whether or not tiny sea life exists within it or if anything could live within the depths of the freezing ocean.
NASA proposes that the mission will take place in 2030.
The probe, which will drill into Europa’s arctic crust, will have to make a 400 million mile journey in order to reach the planet’s moon.
However, NASA also plans another flyby mission in the 2020s, which will help researchers and scientists map out exactly how they will accomplish this daring new mission.
“Jupiter’s moon Europa is a prime target in our exploration of potentially habitable worlds beyond Earth. Europa, which is approximately the size of Earth’s moon, very likely harbors a global, ~100 km deep, liquid water ocean beneath its relatively thin (<25 km) ice shell. This ocean exists today and it has possibly persisted for much of the history of the solar system. Europa’s ocean is probably in contact with a rocky, silicate seafloor, which may lead to an ocean rich in the elements and energy needed for the emergence of life, and for potentially sustaining life through time. Europa may hold the clues to one of NASA’s long standing goals – to determine whether or not we are alone in the universe. The highest-level science goal of the mission presented here is to search for evidence of life on Europa.”