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Business News/ Science / News/  In search for life, NASA's ‘Clipper’ spacecraft to explore Jupiter's moon Europa in $5 billion mission
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In search for life, NASA's ‘Clipper’ spacecraft to explore Jupiter's moon Europa in $5 billion mission

NASA's $5 billion probe bound for Jupiter's moon Europa aims to uncover extraterrestrial life, equipped with instruments to examine layers of frozen water, potentially harbouring liquid water below the surface. The Clipper is slated to launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida in October.

PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 11: A mannequin is viewed inside a Spacecraft Assembly Facility clean room during a media visit to the NASA Europa Clipper spacecraft at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on April 11, 2024 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by MARIO TAMA / Getty Images via AFP) (Getty Images via AFP)Premium
PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 11: A mannequin is viewed inside a Spacecraft Assembly Facility clean room during a media visit to the NASA Europa Clipper spacecraft at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on April 11, 2024 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by MARIO TAMA / Getty Images via AFP) (Getty Images via AFP)

American space scientists on Thursday said that the interplanetary probe, slated to be sent by NASA to one of Jupiter's icy moons, will be a significant milestone in humanity's quest to uncover extraterrestrial life.

Scheduled for launch in October, the Clipper spacecraft is set to embark on a journey towards Europa, one of Jupiter's numerous moons, AFP reported. Europa holds particular significance as it is the closest celestial body within our solar system that might harbour conditions conducive to life.

“One of the fundamental questions that NASA wants to understand is, are we alone in the cosmos?" Bob Pappalardo, the mission's project scientist told AFP.

PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 11: Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) workers stand near a mannequin inside a Spacecraft Assembly Facility clean room of  NASA Europa Clipper spacecraft on April 11, 2024 in Pasadena, California. The spacecraft,  scheduled to investigate and perform flybys of Europa, Jupiter's moon, where data suggests a global ocean of water lies beneath the icy surface which may be habitable for life.   Mario Tama/ Getty Images via AFP)
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PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 11: Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) workers stand near a mannequin inside a Spacecraft Assembly Facility clean room of NASA Europa Clipper spacecraft on April 11, 2024 in Pasadena, California. The spacecraft, scheduled to investigate and perform flybys of Europa, Jupiter's moon, where data suggests a global ocean of water lies beneath the icy surface which may be habitable for life. Mario Tama/ Getty Images via AFP) (Getty Images via AFP)

“If we were to find the conditions for life, and then someday actually find life in a place like Europa, then that would say in our own solar system there are two examples of life: Earth and Europa. That would be huge for understanding how common life might be throughout the universe."

The $5 billion probe is presently stationed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, housed within a specialised “clean room."

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AFP reported that this environment is sealed and accessible only to individuals donning full-body protective gear. Such stringent measures are in place to safeguard the probe against potential contamination by Earthly microbes, thereby minimizing the risk of transporting any unwanted organisms to Europa.

Moreover, following its transfer to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Clipper spacecraft will be launched aboard a Space X Falcon Heavy rocket, marking the commencement of a journey spanning over five years. This trajectory includes a pass by Mars to harness gravitational assistance for added velocity.

Also Read: Russian spacecraft comes alarmingly close to colliding with US satellite, NASA ‘very shocked’

By 2031, the spacecraft is anticipated to achieve an orbit around Jupiter and its moon Europa. Once positioned, it will embark on an extensive examination of Europa, a celestial body believed to be enshrouded in layers of frozen water, offering tantalizing prospects for scientific exploration.

“We have instruments like cameras, and spectrometers, a magnetometer and a radar that can... penetrate right through ice, bounce off liquid water and back to the surface to tell us how thick is the ice and where is liquid water located," Pappalardo said.

(With inputs from AFP)

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Published: 12 Apr 2024, 01:47 PM IST
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