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NASA Awards SpaceX Contract To Launch JPL Mission To Jupiter Moon Europa

Published on Saturday, July 24, 2021 | 5:39 am
NASA’s Europa Clipper will conduct detailed reconnaissance of Jupiter’s moon Europa and investigate whether the icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life. The mission will place a spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter in order to perform a detailed investigation of Europa — a world that shows strong evidence for an ocean of liquid water beneath its icy crust and which could host conditions favorable for life. The mission will send a highly capable, radiation-tolerant spacecraft into a long, looping orbit around Jupiter to perform repeated close flybys of the icy moon. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA announced Friday it has awarded Hawthorne-based SpaceX a $178 million contract to launch Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s first mission aimed at conducting detailed investigations of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, including a search for potentially life-supporting water.

The Europa Clipper mission is managed hereb in Pasadena by JPL and will employ an array of scientific tools to determine if the Jupiter moon has conditions suitable for life.

Scientists have long theorized that Europa has a vast salty ocean beneath its icy surface, potentially with more water than all of Earth’s oceans combined. The presence of water is an essential element of life.

The Clipper mission collect high-resolution images of Europa’s surface, determine its composition while also searching for signs of geological activity. It will also measure the thickness of its icy surface and employ ice-penetrating radar to search for subsurface water.

SpaceX is expected to employ its Falcon Heavy rocket to launch the Europa Clipper mission from Cape Canaveral in Florida, with the launch anticipated in October 2024.

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