NASA picks nine instruments for future mission to Europa

illustration of future mission to Europa

A future mission to Europa, illustrated here, will investigate the moon’s subsurface ocean while orbiting Jupiter and flying by the moon multiple times (blue lines).

JPL-Caltech/NASA

NASA is gearing up to see what’s lurking in the salty seas beneath the icy shell of Jupiter’s moon Europa. Nine instruments will fly aboard a spacecraft slated to launch sometime in the 2020s that will investigate whether or not the moon is habitable, space agency officials announced at a news conference May 26.

Two cameras will map the moon, while an ice-penetrating radar will peer beneath its surface. To figure out what’s in the water, three instruments will measure the composition of material deposited on the surface of the moon and what’s blasted into space. The probe will carry two detectors that will measure the moon’s magnetic field, which will reveal the depth and saltiness of the ocean. And an ultraviolet spectrometer will be the spacecraft’s dedicated plume hunter, seeking out evidence of water vents like those seen on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

Christopher Crockett is a freelance science writer and editor based in Arlington, Va. He has a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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