Mission to Europa included in proposed NASA budget
NASA’s chief financial officer David Radzanowski had requested $30 million over the next year to start work on a mission to the Jovian (one of four closest satellites of the gas giant Jupiter) moon Europa. His request was granted in the latest White House Space and Sciences budget. The proposed budget covers everything from the Commercial Crew Program ($1.2 billion) to the Asteroid Redirect Mission. It also contains the funding Radzanowski sought for the project.
A concept for more than 15 years, the Europa Clipper is designed to make 47 flybys of the icy moon. The altitudes of the encounters will range from a high of 1675 miles (2700 km) to a “low” of just 15 miles (25 km). As proposed, the Europa Clipper may launch sometime in the mid 2020s. The goal of this new mission is to determine if the ingredients for biological life reside beneath the moon’s icy surface – something that scientists who have examined the world suspect might just be possible. This makes Europa potentially one of the best places besides Earth to find life within our solar system.
The Europa Clipper is designed to carry a large assortment of instruments in its school-bus sized frame. It also has to stand up against the intense radiation belts of the Jovian system. Mission planners believe they can overcome these obstacles and create a probe capable of surviving the extreme environment.
Scientists think Europa contains a liquid ocean below the ice – one that is possibly capable of supporting life. Recent studies have concluded that Europa, the sixth largest moon in the solar system, may harbor more than three times the total volume of water here on planet Earth. Europa also appears to be affected by processes similar to plate tectonics as evidenced by geysers on the moon’s surface. If these assumptions are proven correct, the possibilities for life (even microbial life) on the Jovian moon increase dramatically.
Before the Europa Clipper can be launched on its incredible journey, the proposed budget for funding must first travel the gauntlet of Congressional committees, budget rewrites and re-allocations. Still, the Europa Clipper has its fans. Rep. John Culberson, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NASA, is a big fan of a Europa mission and will be pleased with this part of the budget proposal. Ted Cruz, now chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees NASA, is also a supporter. But there are many Congressional Democrats and Republicans who may resist this proposal.
In total, the Europa Clipper mission can expect $255 million to be allocated to the project over the next 5 years. That is of course dependent on the funding surviving the budget process.
Joe Latrell is a life-long avid space enthusiast having created his own rocket company in Roswell, NM in addition to other consumer space endeavors. He continues to design, build and launch his own rockets and has a passion to see the next generation excited about the opportunities of space exploration. Joe lends his experiences from the corporate and small business arenas to organizations such as Teachers In Space, Inc. He is also actively engaged in his church investing his many skills to assist this and other non-profit endeavors.