National Geographic : 2014 Jul
life beyond earth 37 1 3 3 6 6 5 8 4 2 7 Look ahead A reconnaissance camera (8) surveys the surface, looking for smooth places suitable for a future mission that would land on Europa. Seek warmth Plume vents and other warm, active surface features can be detected by a thermal imager (7). Sniff the atmosphere A neutral mass spectrometer (1) analyzes material ejected from Europa’s surface for organic materials related to life and for clues to its ocean’s composition. Probe particles Langmuir probes (6) analyze charged particles in Jupiter’s magnetic field that pelt Europa’s surface. This bombard- ment creates oxygen-rich materials that could make their way to the ocean below. Measure salinity Magnetometers (3) determine the ocean’s salinity and depth based on how it responds to Jupiter’s magnetic field. Peek at the ice Using radio waves, ice-penetrating radar (4) looks for liquid in and under Europa’s icy shell, and could help determine the thickness of the ice. Sense chemicals Mapping impurities on Europa’s surface with a shortwave infrared spectrometer (2) provides further clues about the ocean’s makeup. From space the device can also sense chemicals that may be building blocks for life. Jupiter orbit Jupiter orbit Venus orbit Earth orbit Earth orbit Atlas V trajectory SLS trajectory SPACE LAUNCH SYSTEM (SLS) 2.7 - year travel time ATLAS V 6.4 - year travel time Map geology in 3-D By surveying surface features, a topographical imager (5) reveals how geology has shaped Europa’s ice and how fluids move within it. JOHN TOMANIO, NGM STAFF CLIPPER ART: HAISAM HUSSEIN SOURCE: STEVE VANCE, JPL/CALTECH TWO WAYS TO JUPITER To get to Jupiter, the Clipper would either first “slingshot” around Earth and Venus on an Atlas V rocket or travel more directly in less time on the proposed SLS rocket. The hoped-for launch date: 2022. Listening for life NASA’s proposed Clipper spacecraft would fly by Jupiter’s moon Europa 45 times, cruising within 16 miles of the surface. Here’s how it would seek the conditions for life.