In the quest to find habitable bodies, Jupiter’s moon Europa has been a high priority on the exploration list due to its liquid saltwater ocean underneath its ice crust. Three key ingredients for life must be present in order for biological activity to take place: liquid water, chemical ingredients, and energy sources able to enable biology. Ultimately, the goal of any Europa exploration would be to locate these three necessities and determine whether or not habitability is possible.
While always an idea, NASA’s Europa Clipper was christened early last month and given an objective: to fly by Europa and image and analyse its surface and interior composition. The orbiter is slated to make around 40 to 45 flybys at a rate of one every two weeks, but cannot stay for extended periods of time due to potential mechanical and electronic damage resulting from the surrounding radiation Jupiter creates.
The probe is set to launch in 2020, more on the mission can be seen here.