NASA's Europa mission passes first major review

NASA is hot to explore Europa, which is one of the moons orbiting Jupiter. The reason that Europa is such an interesting place to NASA is because it is believed to be one of the most likely places to find life outside of Earth. NASA has a mission concept for investigating Europa and that plan has successfully passed its first major review by the space agency.

The next phase of the mission will be the development phase known as formulation. the first indication that Europa might have a liquid ocean beneath its frozen surface came in the 90s when the NASA Galileo mission produce strong evidence of that ocean's existence.

Europa is about the size of the Earth's moon and if the ocean exists covering the entire surface of the moon under the ice, Europa could hold more than twice as much water as the Earth. NASA believes that with an ocean that covers the entire planet's surface with heat and energy provided by tidal heating, and a rocky sea floor that all ingredients for simple organisms to live are available.

The mission NASA wants to send to Europa would launch in the 2020s and would arrive in orbit after a journey of seven years. The spacecraft would perform about 45 flybys and investigate the composition and structure of the moon's icy shell.