NASA plans to give SpaceX $178 million to help it launch a mission to Jupiter’s ice moon Europe, the US space agency said.
The mission will take place on a Falcon Heavy rocket and will use instruments to determine whether the frozen Moon can harbor life. The mission is scheduled to take place from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A in Cape Canaveral, Florida in October 2024.
“The main objectives of the mission are to produce high-resolution images of the surface of Europe, to determine its composition, to look for signs of recent or current geological activity, to measure the thickness of the Moon’s icy shell, to explore the Earth’s surface, and to explore the Earth’s surface.” To determine the depth and salinity of underground lakes and the European Ocean,” NASA said in a statement.
“Scientists are almost certain that there is a vast ocean beneath the icy shell of Europe,” NASA said.
Researchers also predict that a rocky bottom may lie on the ocean floor, creating chemical nutrients for living organisms.
The US agency said NASA’s Galileo mission, which was launched in 1989, provided some of the “best evidence” of the presence of an ocean on Europa. The Galileo spacecraft has detected a magnetic field that scientists say could be created by “a global ocean of salt water”.
SpaceX is working with NASA on a number of missions to bring cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) from 2019 onwards, as well as astronauts since last year.
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