Back in early 2016, NASA commissioned a Science Definition Team (SDT) of 21 scientists to design a lander headed to Europa, an icy moon of Jupiter, located over 390 million miles from Earth. The team has finally completed the task after nearly 8 months of deliberation and submitted a report to the space agency on February 7th.
The report contains the details of recommendation for the future mission that will search for life by drilling toward the subterranean ocean, which researchers believe to exist beneath Europa’s icy crust. The ocean is also believed to be in contact with a rocky, silicate seafloor – an essential source of elements and energy important to grow and sustain life. Enceladus, Saturn’s moon has the only other ocean in contact with a seafloor outside the Earth, which means Europa is an ideal candidate for exploring extraterrestrial life forms.
Don’t confuse it with NASA’s Europa flyby mission that is scheduled to launch in the 2020s. However, this flyby mission will utilize its cameras to hunt for plumes and cracks where material from Europa’s subterranean might ooze out. The lander will then visit to collect samples. The scientists from the SDT hope to launch the mission as soon as 2031.