On Friday, February 10th, NASA announced that a team of 21 scientists had delivered their first report on a lander mission to explore the possibility of life on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. The NASA-employed Science Definition Team (SDT) recommended that NASA send a probe as soon as 2031, about a decade after an already-planned Europa flyby mission.
The lander will be primarily focused on studying the enormous ocean thought to be hiding deep beneath Europa’s surface. In addition to collecting and analyzing samples from the ocean that have escaped through cracks in the moon’s icy crust, the probe is expected to drill four inches down. SDT member Jonathan Lunine described the hypothetical mission as a ‘bug hunt,’ designed to scope out surface deposits for signs of life far below.