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Exploring Jupiter's moon  NASA unveils its Clipper probe

Exploring Jupiter's moon NASA unveils its Clipper probe

(Pasadena) Are aliens secretly lurking beneath the surface of Jupiter's icy moon? On Thursday, NASA unveiled an interplanetary probe aimed at finding out what is going on.

The probe Shears or clippersThe $5 billion spacecraft is scheduled to launch in October aboard a Space

The device will travel for more than five years, passing notably by Mars before entering orbit around Jupiter and Europa in 2031, if all goes as planned.

“One of the fundamental questions that NASA wants to understand is: ‘Are we alone in the universe?’” mission scientist Bob Pappalardo explains to AFP.

He adds that if evidence of life is discovered, “it would be a major step forward in understanding how widespread life is in the universe.”

Photography by David Swanson/Reuters

The device is currently kept in a sterile room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, accessible only to employees covered from head to toe.

All precautions were taken so that the probe would not bring any terrestrial microbes to Europa.

Once it begins its mission, Shears or clippers It will begin a detailed examination of this satellite of Jupiter, which is similar in size to the Moon and which scientists believe is covered in frozen water.

“We have tools like cameras, spectrometers, magnetometers and radar that can do this […] “It penetrates the ice, bounces off the liquid water and then returns to the surface to tell us how thick the ice is and where the liquid water is,” Mr. Pappalardo continues.

Those in charge of the mission aren't hoping to find little green men wandering around: in fact, they're not necessarily looking for signs of life, just the conditions for it.

Scientists know that even in extreme climates on Earth, under the ice cap in light-devoid of environments, tiny forms of life can exist.

“If the moons surrounding planets farther away from stars are able to host life, then the number of possibilities in the solar system, in the universe, for life to exist increases dramatically, I think,” said Jordan Evans, the project leader. Europa Clipper mission.

100,000 chest x-rays

However, studying Europa will not be easy: there is a strong radiation field that includes Jupiter's natural satellite and could damage lunar instruments. Shears or clipperswhich will receive the equivalent of 100,000 chest X-rays in each loop around its target.

Due to the distance, it will take 45 minutes for the probe data to reach the control station.

Despite the massive solar panels that will be deployed once it reaches space, they will be difficult to maintain Shears or clippers In service, according to Mr. Evans.

“Near Earth, they can continuously power 20 homes. And (near) Jupiter there are only a few light bulbs and small appliances,” he said, “because of the planet’s distance from the sun.”

The mission, planning for which began in the late 1990s, is scheduled to end around 2034, when Shears or clippers It has reached the end of its useful life.

Tim Larson, vice president of the project, says that the probe's final step will be to collide with Jupiter's moon.

He concluded his speech by saying: “When we finish the scientific mission, the way to end it is to collide with one of the other (celestial) bodies in the Jupiter system that is available to the device.” “Right now,” he explains, NASA plans to accelerate the probe against Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest natural satellite.

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