WASHINGTON: NASA may soon launch to send a lander on Jupiter's icy moon Europa - the most likely candidate for hosting life in our solar system after the Blue Marble - to find signs of life.
The main focus of the launch, that may happen in as early as 2022, will mainly study Europa from the orbit but the US space agency is also exploring the idea for surface investigation, rt.com reported on Friday.
“We are actively pursuing the possibility of a lander,” said Robert Pappalardo, Europa project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, was quoted as saying.
“NASA has asked us to investigate: What would it take? How much would it cost? Could we put a small surface package on Europa with this mission?” Pappalardo told a panel discussion at the “Space 2015” conference earlier this month.
The final decision is expected by the end of this year, Pappalardo added.
The conditions on Europa have made the icy moon top choice on the researchers' list of finding alien life in our solar system.
Past research has shown that this icy world has a huge sub-surface ocean that is twice as deep as the deepest spot in Earth’s oceans.
It has existed for billions of years, being almost as old as the solar system itself.
According to a report in Space.com, the probe will use as many as nine different ways to study the icy world, including high-resolution cameras, a heat detector and ice-penetrating radar.
Scientists believe it will give them plenty of new data about Europa’s composition, the nature of its sub-surface ocean, as well as its ability to host life similar to that which we know on Earth.
The mission is also expected to serve as a reconnaissance mission to facilitate future landings, as getting to the ice world may be really challenging.