The U.S National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced its plan of launching a mission to explore Jupiter's moon, Europa--one of the areas of our solar system theorized to support alien life. The mission is expected to commence in 10 years.
The 2015 federal budget request, prepared by the White House, allocated $15 million to start developing a mission to go to Europa, which was discovered to contain water that can support life. According to Beth Robinson, chief financial officer of NASA, the $15 million is a small part of the $17.5 billion fund that they have requested. This fund will be used for "pre-formulation" in preparation for the Europa probe.
"Europa is a very challenging mission operating in a really high radiation environment, and there's lots to do to prepare for it," Robinson told Space.com. The launch is expected to be possibly by mid-2020s.
Although this is the first time that a mission to Europa was included in a federal budget proposal, NASA has already received funding to see if a mission could be deployed to Jupiter's moon. In fact, for the last two years, the Congress has allotted an accumulated amount of $155 million for this initiative.
Robinson said that people have been asking for the specifics of the mission, but at this point, the agency is not yet sure. She added that NASA is recruiting experts from the scientific community to use their help in mapping out the Europa mission.
Statements made by NASA officials suggests that planning for the mission is at its infancy stage but the most probable project to be launched in relation to this goal is the Europa Clipper.
The Europa Clipper is a spacecraft that will orbit Jupiter and will make full investigation and close flybys on Europa. It aims to determine the thickness of the giant moon's ice shell, study its composition and atmosphere, and collect high-resolution images.