Europa Clipper Mission

GS Paper III

News Excerpt:

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is preparing the Europa Clipper spacecraft for a mega launch in October this year. 

More about Europa Clipper mission:

  • Europa Clipper is a robotic solar-powered spacecraft built to conduct the first detailed investigations of Jupiter's icy moon Europa.
  • It is NASA’s Largest Planetary Mission Spacecraft.
  • The spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in 2030. Once in orbit around Jupiter, it will conduct nearly 50 flybys of Europa.
  • Europa Clipper will launch in October 2024 on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

What will Europa Clipper do?

  • Europa Clipper’s main science goal is to determine whether there are places below the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa, that could support life.
  • The mission’s three main science objectives are to understand the nature of the ice shell and the ocean beneath it, along with Europa's composition and geology.
  • 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 vapour that may be venting from the icy crust.


  • Europa is the sixth-largest moon in the Solar System and Jupiter’s fourth-largest satellite. 
  • Despite its cracked and discoloured appearance, it is the smoothest solid object in the Solar System. 
    • Its highest peaks, of which there are few, only reach a few hundred meters tall, and large craters are rare.

Potential for life:

  • Europa is considered one of the "most promising potentially habitable environments" in the solar system.
  • Life as we know it seems to have three main requirements: liquid water, certain chemical elements, and an energy source. 
  • Astrobiologists – scientists who study the origin, evolution, and future of life in the universe – believe Europa has the essential elements to support life.
    • Scientists predict that there is a probable sea on Europa containing twice as much water as all of Earth’s oceans combined.
    • It also has the right chemical elements – the building blocks of life – including carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulphur.
    • The third ingredient for life is energy. All lifeforms need energy to survive. On Earth, most of that energy comes from the Sun.
      • Europa's surface is blasted by radiation from Jupiter. That's a bad thing for life on the surface – it couldn't survive. But the radiation may create fuel for life in an ocean below the surface.

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