One Step Closer to Jupiter, NASA’s Europa Mission Enters Design Phase

A NASA mission that will send a probe to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa recently passed a critical stage on its long journey to the Jovian system.

Europa is one of a handful of locations in the solar system that scientists think could host an environment fit for life. Beneath an ice layer about 10 to 15 miles (15-25 kilometers) thick, the moon is thought to harbor a liquid water ocean, possibly warmed by geologic processes originating in the planet’s core. With heat, water and nutrients, subsurface Europa could resemble the deep-sea ocean vents on Earth that support vast ecosystems.

NASA announced last week that the Europa mission recently passed a critical milestone and has entered a new phase that will focus on the creation of detailed designs for the spacecraft and the instruments it will carry. The mission is scheduled to launch sometime in the 2020s.

[Photos: Europa, Mysterious Icy Moon of Jupiter, Credit:NASA]