SpaceX Will Launch NASA Europa Clipper Mission

The Europa Clipper mission will launch in October 2024 on a Falcon Heavy rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The total contract award amount for launch services is approximately $178 million.

Above – This illustration, updated in December 2020, depicts NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft. With an internal global ocean twice the size of Earth’s oceans combined, Jupiter’s moon Europa may have the potential to harbor life. The Europa Clipper orbiter will swoop around Jupiter on an elliptical path, dipping close to the moon on each flyby to collect data.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The old plan was to use SLS (Space Launch System) but the SLS costs and delays have finally switched the launch to SpaceX.

Europa Clipper will conduct a detailed survey of Europa and use a sophisticated suite of science instruments to investigate whether the icy moon has conditions suitable for life. Key mission objectives are to produce high-resolution images of Europa’s surface, determine its composition, look for signs of recent or ongoing geological activity, measure the thickness of the moon’s icy shell, search for subsurface lakes, and determine the depth and salinity of Europa’s ocean.

Written by Brian Wang,

12 thoughts on “SpaceX Will Launch NASA Europa Clipper Mission”

  1. You really need rem per unit time. Europa gets 540 rem per day, which is 1,800 times the average annual dose on the Earth's surface, so 657,000 times the radiation level on Earth. Assuming there weren't any additional screwups in that Wikipedia article, which I wouldn't count on; The paper they cited for that was paywalled.

    Somebody desperately needs to be hung by their toes for a day or a year, to remind them not to mix units like that. That was really terrible.

    Most of Jupiter's moons will have to be explored by teleoperated machinery, and perhaps could host underground colonies, but the surfaces would be mostly off limits to humans. Arguably a good place to colonize only if you didn't want frequent visitors annoying you.

  2. Which spreadsheet is that? says that 0.3 km is only once every 73 000 years.

    The 50 year frequency is more like a 20m rock. About the size of the Chelyabinsk  one.

    Not that wikipedia is always reliable, but when it comes to non-political things like rock sizes it is usually as good as anywhere else.

  3. And I did have to post this wonderful high resolution photo of Europa. Not sure which space mission took it.

  4. My bad.
    It's 0.3 to 1km and Sentry appears to count 'multiple impacts' (whatever that means) at its significantly less than 1% so its Bennu and 29075 and MZ112 possibly between now and the glorious mid-3rd millenium. Seemed more impressive on the spreadsheet (as all things do).

  5. A dozen 10 km asteroids in 600 years? So that's 1 per 50 years?

    Which is a bit different from the 1 per 50 million years that have occured up till now.

    Unless you're suggesting that asteroid mining will go terribly out of control.

  6. Yeah, they tended to be good ones, because most of these novels wanted to be hard sci/fi, and Jupiter is one of the most exotic places nearby that we can feasibly reach with known tech.

    But it's not necessary to go that backwards in time: The recent Expanse series features episodes happening in the surface of Io!

    Even if they acknowledge Io's vulcanism, walking in a spacesuit on the surface is much more science fictional than the Epstein drives supposedly taking people there.

  7. Ho hum… and some rather inspiring scifi from post-70s greats Clarke to Sterling to Reynolds all featured Jovian empires -and- some not too unknown Anime (Cowboy BbP) with bases… Titan perhaps…

  8. Taking humans to Europa would require active EM shielding against the severe downpour of charged particles. And keeping it on all the time when you are there.

    Something that even if physically feasible, still is very much science fiction.

    Any future crewed exploration of Jupiter Moons will probably remain restricted to the outermost moon, with telerobotics used for the others. But who knows? maybe one day, when we have much more knowledge and confidence on such radiation shielding technologies.

  9. That existential threat was rated as 1-in-50,000+ years – a dozen 10km asteroids will be hitting us in the next 500 – 700 years, soooooo

  10. seems like this van allen-type protection (in the right place) could be a good refuge if the infamous 'supernova closer than 50 ly' burst wipes us out on Earth…

  11. The Jovian System: way more interesting than even 2001's adaptation had indicated – the inner moons' volcanoes, the moons' methane oceans (or slush ponds), mother planet's practically unlimited helium resources…

  12. File under: Unrequited Exploration Dreams:
    "… discussion about Europa has me thinking about those tempting Galilean moons and the problems they present for exploration. With a magnetic field 20,000 times stronger than Earth’s, Jupiter is a radiation generator. Worlds like Europa may well have a sanctuary for life beneath the ice, but exploring the surface will demand powerful radiation shielding for sensitive equipment, not to mention the problem of trying to protect a fragile human in that environment… Radiation at Europa’s surface is about 5.4 Sv (540 rem), although to be sure it seems to vary, with the highest radiation areas being found near the equator, lessening toward the poles. In human terms, that’s 1800 times the average annual sea-level dose. Europa is clearly a place for robotic exploration rather than astronaut boots on the ground…"

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