In a move that may be heralded as the first step toward discovering life beyond Earth, NASA has selected nine science instruments for a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa. The mission: to investigate whether the mysterious icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life.
The significance of this mission is difficult to overstate. In 2012, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope observed water vapor above the south polar region of Europa. The observation provided the first strong evidence of water plumes. If these plumes are confirmed, and they are linked to a subsurface ocean, the discovery will help scientists investigate the chemical makeup of Europa’s potentially habitable environment.