A plan to launch a spacecraft to Jupiter’s moon Europa in the 2020s passed a major hurdle, as NASA approved the mission concept and gave the go ahead to move forward into the formulation stage of development. Sending a flyby mission to the icy moon of Jupiter is considered key in helping scientists determine how likely life is to exist there.
If the probe shows that conditions on Europa would permit microbial life, other moons in the solar system, such as Saturn’s moon Enceladus, might host life as well.
While the Voyager spacecraft did a quick flyby of Europa in the 1980s, it was NASA’s Galileo probe in the 1990s that provided more evidence for a global ocean underneath this moon’s thick icy surface.
Two years ago, researchers using the Hubble Space Telescope released images of a water plume at Europa.
The White House’s 2016 federal budget request includes $18.5 million for the mission’s development.