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Europa lander mission takes another step toward reality

Proposal looks at how to prevent probe’s contamination of the Jovian moon

11:09am, February 18, 2017
icy surface of Europa

ONTO THE ICE  This image from the Galileo spacecraft shows the icy surface of Europa. The Jovian moon is a target for a potential lander mission that will look for signs of life there.

BOSTON — For the first time since the Viking missions to Mars in the 1970s, NASA is making the search for evidence of life on another world the primary science goal of a space mission. The target world is Jupiter’s moon Europa, considered possibly habitable because of its subsurface ocean.

The proposed mission, which could be operational in the next two decades, calls for a lander with room for roughly 43 kilograms of science instruments. They include a robotic arm to scoop samples and others to analyze the chemistry of the Jovian moon’s icy surface (SN: 5/17/14, p. 20). “It’s the first time in human history that we have the ability to design instruments to detect life within our own solar system’s backyard in the next 20 years,” astrobiologist and planetary scientist

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