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Don’t Let Politics Stop The Wondrous Europa Clipper’s Probe Of Jupiter

6 17 24

Its frozen shell is encrusted with a layer of white and orange ice. The endless twisting and pulling of Jupiter’s gravity leaves a surface crisscrossed by deep valleys, ridges, and not yet fully understood “chaos zones” of deep tectonic activity. Its immense dark oceans, heated by underwater volcanoes, are hidden by this icy surface — that is, except for when it explodes outwards in titanic geysers, shooting plumes of liquid water hundreds of miles into space.

No, this isn’t science fiction — this is Europa, the hauntingly beautiful yet bizarre ocean moon of Jupiter. Scientists have called Europa “the most likely place to find extraterrestrial life in our solar systems.” As such, it is the target of one of NASA’s most exciting upcoming missions; a mission now one step closer to happening thanks to privatization.

The Europa Clipper, named after the sailing ships from the Age of Exploration, is set to journey to this ocean world within the next three years. The nimble spacecraft will be launched into orbit around Jupiter and make nearly 50 close flybys of the moon.

On each of these trips, spectrometers, cameras, and radar will be used to scour the moon’s surface, peer beneath its icy shell, and even “taste” the geysers to find out what’s in the oceans.

The mission is critical for three reasons. One, it will tell us what’s inside Europa’s planet-wide ocean. Two, it’ll assess the moon’s habitability, and whether its seas can harbor life. Three, it will identify high-interest areas on the surface, such as geyser locations and “chaos zones.”

All of these will be crucial for the eventual exploration of the ocean moon. So far, the mission is looking good. The Clipper is all but finished, with its instruments entering the final stages of development.

There’s only one problem: today, it’s illegal for it to be taken to space via any existing launch vehicle. The Europa Clipper has been dosed with a poison pill of........

© The Federalist

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