NASA has recently held a press conference to inform the media about its Europa mission. The agency’s officials addressing the media stated that the mission will be launched during the 2020s. The mission, according to them, will be orbiting the giant planet Jupiter while performing as many as 45 Europa flybys. It will be a three-year mission and will be taking place at altitudes ranging between 25 km and 2,700 km.
Roger Clark, a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute (PSI), has been appointed as a co-investigator on the MISE or Mapping Image Spectrometer for Europa. The MISE will be probing Europa’s composition and then identify and record distribution of acid hydrates, salts, organics, ice and other substances for determining whether Europa’s ocean is habitable.
Candice Hansen and Amy Barr Mlinar, two other senior scientists representing the PSI, have been appointed as the co-investigators on an instrument called the EIS or Europa Imaging System. The EIS comes equipped with narrow and wide angle cameras that will assist the instrument in mapping 90% of the moon’s surface at a resolution of 50.
Hansen shared her experience of seeing a tiny fraction of the fascinating surface of Jupiter’s icy moon at a high resolution and said that she is waiting to get more surprised as she along with her team is planning to map 90% of the moon’s surface.
For those who don’t know: The Galileo mission to Europa managed to image around 10% of the moon’s surface at a resolution of around 200 m.
This new mission to Europa will be using the advanced, ice-penetrating radar called Radar for Europa Assessment and Sounding: Ocean to Near-Surface or REASON.
REASON has been designed for characterizing distribution of the shallow subsurface waters, searching for a proper ice-ocean interface and last, but not least characterizing the global thermo-physical structure of the ice shell.
Also, this special radar will be investigating the procedures governing material exchanges between oceans, surface, atmosphere, and ice shell; the investigated procedures will also include plume activity. REASON will work even for reducing amplitude and phasing of the gravitational tides. According to information provided by NASA, the agency received as many as 33 instrument proposals for its new Europa mission; out of them, it has selected only nine.