Could alien life be on our doorstep? The European Space Agency believe the answer to one of humankind’s fundamental questions could lie in our solar system, as they invest $380 million in new mission to discover life on Jupiter.
The exploration will focus on three of Jupiter’s moons, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, which scientists believe to be the most likely to support running water under their icy outer surfaces. Recent research conduced by the Hubble Space Telescope has suggested that vast global oceans could lurk below, which indicates life could be thriving.
Work will commence on the new spacecraft this month, named JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer). The mission will circle the moons, snapping pictures of each surface in search of geysers, whilst spectrometers will help determine the atmosphere to look for evidence of nitrogen or carbon. Radiation will also be measured, as this could be an alternate heat source for a moon so far from our Sun.
According to the ESA, this is to be the first time any icy moon has been orbited by a spacecraft. JUICE is scheduled to be released into space in 2022, and reach Jupiter by 2030.
By Trudie Carter