Space Exploration—Going to Europa


2012reportcvr2

Fig. 1 Source JPL/NASA –click on link below for details

Europa Study

While I was at  S.A.G.A.N.et. http://saganet.org/main  (kudos to all who run the site at SAGANet) I ran across news of a proposed “Europa” clipper mission. It is being proposed by a group of  scientists at JPL. The proposed mission is “doable” by current estimates.

 

NASA RECENTLY TASKED A TEAM OF SCIENTISTS FROM THE PLANETARY SCIENCE COMMUNITY TO WORK WITH ENGINEERS AT THE JET PROPULSION LABORATORY AND JOHNS HOPKINS’ APPLIED PHYSICS LABORATORY TO DESIGN A MISSION TO EUROPA THAT CAN MEET A STRICT COST CAP. THE RESULT OF THIS THOROUGH STUDY WAS THE EUROPA CLIPPER MISSION CONCEPT. FOR LESS THAN HALF THE COST OF PAST MISSION CONCEPTS, THE CLIPPER WOULD INVESTIGATE EUROPA’S CHEMISTRY, OCEAN, AND ENERGY IN ORDER TO DETERMINE WHETHER THIS ICY OCEAN MOON IS HABITABLE.
DURING ITS 2+ YEARS IN ORBIT AROUND JUPITER, THE CLIPPER WOULD PERFORM AT LEAST 32 FLY-BYS OF EUROPA, COLLECTING DATA FROM WITHIN 100KM OF THE SURFACE. THIS APPROACH WILL LIMIT THE AMOUNT OF RADIATION THAT THE SPACECRAFT WILL HAVE TO ENDURE, WHICH LOWERS THE COST AND EXTENDS THE LIFETIME OF THE MISSION. IT ALSO MEANS THAT THE CLIPPER MISSION WOULD ACTUALLY RETURN MORE TOTAL DATA VOLUME, PARTICULARLY IN ICE PENETRATING RADAR, THAN MUCH LARGER, MORE EXPENSIVE ORBITERS WOULD!

THE CLIPPER MISSION WOULD COST ABOUT $2 BILLION, ABOUT HALF THE COST OF PAST MISSION CONCEPTS. IF SELECTED AND FUNDED BY 2015, THE SPACECRAFT WOULD BE READY FOR THE MOST ADVANTAGEOUS LAUNCH DATE OF NOVEMBER 21ST, 2021. THE CLIPPER WOULD THEN BEGIN TAKING DATA AT EUROPA ON APRIL 4TH, 2028.

THE OUTER PLANETS ASSESSMENT GROUP (OPAG) IS COMPOSED OF THE FOREMOST SCIENTISTS WHO STUDY BODIES AND PROCESSES BEYOND THE ASTEROID BELT. WHEN PRESENTED WITH THE RESULTS OF THE EUROPA MISSION CONCEPT STUDY, THEY STATED, “THE STRONG MAJORITY VIEW OF THE OPAG COMMUNITY IS THAT THE MULTIPLE-FLYBY [CLIPPER] OPTION… OFFERS THE GREATEST SCIENCE RETURN PER DOLLAR, GREATEST PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT, AND GREATEST FLOW THROUGH TO FUTURE EUROPA EXPLORATION.”

 Fig. 2 Credit JPL General Source URL: http://europa.seti.org/ 
Fig. 2 Credit JPL
General Source URL: http://europa.seti.org/
Fig. 3 Credit JPL General Source URL: http://europa.seti.org/

Fig. 3 Credit JPL
General Source URL: http://europa.seti.org/


							
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