NASA wants to visit Jupiter's moon Europa. Why's that exciting? In a word: Water. As this visualization shows, the icy moon may look tiny next to our own planet, but it's got 2- to 3-times as much H2O as we have here on Earth. That "little" moon is packing quite the store of water — and with it, scientists think, a significant chance of harboring life.
We've written about this visualization before, but we thought it appropriate to bring it to your attention again, in light of the White House's approval, back in February, of NASA’s 2016 budget proposal, which included funding that will go towards the planning of a Europa mission. When we look at this image, we can't help but recall the words of Michael Shara, curator in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History, who once had this to tell us about a mission to Europa (emphasis added):
If we can figure out a way of putting a probe through [Europa's] ice — and the ice may be hundreds of yards thick, it could be very difficult to do this — but if we could put a probe down that could melt its way through the ice, and then send out little submarines, who knows what we could find down there. It would be fascinating to go look. I think we have no choice but to go look. We must do it.
Shara's not the only one excited about a trip to Europa. Adam Steltzner, who led the team of engineers that landed NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars in August 2012, has talked openly about his desire to head up a similar robotic mission to Europa. Needless to say, we're on board.
Illustration by Kevin Hand (JPL/Caltech), Jack Cook (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), Howard Perlman (USGS); Spotted on NASA APOD.
This article was originally published on io9 on March 8th, 2014.