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Business News/ Science / News/  NASA's largest spacecraft, Europa Clipper, to find if Jupiter's icy moon could support life: Explained
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NASA's largest spacecraft, Europa Clipper, to find if Jupiter's icy moon could support life: Explained

Jupiter's moon Europa is considered one of the “most promising potentially habitable environments” in the solar system.

NASA's Europa Clipper spacecraft will find out if the conditions are right for life on Jupiter's icy moon. ( NASA JPL/X)Premium
NASA's Europa Clipper spacecraft will find out if the conditions are right for life on Jupiter's icy moon. ( NASA JPL/X)

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is preparing the Europa Clipper spacecraft for a mega launch in October this year. It is the "largest spacecraft NASA has ever built for a planetary mission," NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory JPL said in a post on X earlier this week.

Here are Top 5 key facts you need to know about the Jupiter-bound Europa Clipper spacecraft. Watch videos for details:

1. Mission goal: Europa Clipper will orbit Jupiter and focus on the planet’s ice-encased moon Europa. NASA said the Europa Clipper spacecraft is not a life-detection mission. "Its primary science goal is to determine whether there are places below the moon’s icy surface that could support life," NASA said.

Europa is considered one of the "most promising potentially habitable environments" in the solar system.

The key questions about Jupiter's moon Europa that this mission aims to answer are: How thick and how active is its icy shell? How deep is its global ocean? Does it have the conditions needed to support life?

2. How big is the Europa Clipper spacecraft: NASA said it is the largest spacecraft it has ever built planetary mission. "With its massive solar arrays deployed, Europa Clipper spans more than 100 ft (about 30 m) – about the length of a basketball court – and is the largest spacecraft NASA has ever developed for a planetary mission," it added. The spacecraft will be about 16 feet (5 meters) in height.

 

3. Why study Europa: As per NASA, Jupiter’s moon shows strong evidence of an ocean of liquid water beneath its icy crust. It is suspected to have all the “ingredients" needed for life as we know it. Visiting Europa could help answer big questions like, "How did the universe begin and evolve?".

ALSO READ: Solar eclipses are lot more common on Jupiter than Earth, NASA says ‘double triple and multiple…’ | See pics

4. How will Europa Clipper study Jupiter's icy moon: NASA explained through a video that the Europa Clipper will perform 50 flybys of Europa to gather measurements of the internal ocean, map the surface composition and geology, and hunt for plumes of water vapor that may be venting from the icy crust.

ALSO READ: NASA's Juno spacecraft captures Jupiter's moon Io as it makes closest-ever approach

Watch this video to understand in detail how the NASA will use science instruments to study Europa inside and out:

5. Date, time and place of launch; mission timeline: Europa Clipper spacecraft will launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Its launch period opens on October 10, NASA said. The spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in 2030. Once in orbit around Jupiter, it will conduct nearly 50 flybys of Europa, shifting its flight path for each encounter to soar over a different location so that it eventually scans almost the entire moon.

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Published: 14 Apr 2024, 10:47 PM IST
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