NASA Seeks $15 Million for Mission to Jupiter's Icy Moon 'Europa' in 2025
As reported yesterday, the White House released NASA's 2015 base budget proposal. It contained $17.5 billion in needed funds to cover various aspects of the space program, including a $15 million mission to Jupiter's ice moon, Europa.
NASA is interested in a mission to Europa because the moon possesses a potentially life-supporting ocean of liquid water beneath its icy shell. The $15 million plans to be allocated for "pre-formulation" work regarding the mission, NASA Chief Financial Officer Beth Robinson told reporters yesterday.
The Europa Clipper mission plans to deploy a spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter to investigate Europa in order to find conditions on the moon that could be favorable for human life. Although this was the first time this mission has been mentioned in a federal budget, NASA has received $155 million over the past two years to conduct studies regarding the mission.
The spacecraft that would be sent into orbit would be armed with various scientific instruments while it conducts 45 flybys of Europa. The instruments include "radar to penetrate the frozen crust and determine the thickness of the ice shell; an infrared spectrometer to investigate the composition of Europa's surface materials; a topographic camera for high-resolution imaging of surface features; and an ion and neutral mass spectrometer to analyze the moon's trace atmosphere during flybys." More information about the Europa Clipper mission can be found on the NASA website.
The $15 million that NASA is requesting for the mission in the 2015 budget is most likely an investment to get all of the pieces in place because the Europa Clipper is estimated to cost $2 billion to launch. Jim Green is the head of NASA's planetary science division and he spoke about the mission at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.
"The Europa Clipper is what we would call a flagship, and right now the budget horizon is such that we're deferring that kind of mission until later in the decade," said Green in this Live Science article.