Scientists believe that one of the most likely places in the solar system to harbor life, other than Earth, is one of Jupiter’s moons called Europa. Europa is covered by a thick sheet of ice over its surface, but scientists believe that under that ice are oceans of liquid. That subsurface ocean is believed to be kept liquid by tidal flexing.
This week NASA released a budget overview for fiscal 2015 seeking $17 billion in funding. NASA reportedly wants to use part of that money to begin forming a mission to Europa. NASA has been looking into ways to explore Europa for a while.
Some of the exploration concepts have included the launch of a so-called “clipper” that would fly around the moon and gather data. Other options include a possible lander that would put down on the surface of Europa. Cost estimates peg the funds needed for the clipper type mission at a bit less than $2 billion with the cost to actually land on Europa at $2.8 billion.
It’s unclear right now exactly how much money NASA is asking for so we don’t know if the mission will be a lander or aerial exploration of the moon. I hope they get the money for a lander and can figure out if those subsurface lakes and oceans actually exist.