NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

Can The Icy Europa Support Life? NASA Moves Forward With Mission To Find Out.

Scientists believe that Jupiter’s moon Europa is the most likely place to find alien life in our solar system, and NASA has now announced that it has reached a major new milestone in its upcoming mission to explore the satellite.

Europa is set to become the destination of an ambitious mission that will have a spaceship make multiple (45) flyby’s to collect information with the goal of determining if it is habitable.  This project has recently completed it’s first major reviewand is now moving from the concept phase into the development phase.  In short, the idea is about to become a reality.

With its icy crust and a theorized subsurface ocean, Jupiter’s fourth largest moon is perhaps the best candidate in our galactic neighborhood for finding traces of life outside of our planet.  While there aren’t high expectations of finding complex lifeforms moving about the planet, the scientific community is optimistic that life will exist in the form of simple organisms.

“Today we’re taking an exciting step from concept to mission, in our quest to find signs of life beyond Earth,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.  “Observations of Europa have provided us with tantalizing clues over the last two decades, and the time has come to seek answers to one of humanity’s most profound questions.”

“It’s a great day for science,” said Europa program executive Joan Salute.  “We are thrilled to pass the first major milestone in the lifecycle of a mission that will ultimately inform us on the habitability of Europa.”