Can we give Venus an artificial moon?
Space travel: four places that are more worthwhile than Mars
In the USA, comparable missions came up short several times over other space projects. At least a competition was held at the beginning of 2020 in which interested Internet users could design a Venus rover and win $ 15,000 in the process. The current Mars mission, however, will cost NASA around 2.7 billion dollars.
Perhaps the most exciting celestial body in the entire solar system moves its orbits around Jupiter. Europe is the second innermost moon of the gas giant and thus the neighbor of the volcanic world Io and the moon giant Ganymede. Europe is covered by a thick ice crust, under which planetary researchers suspect an extensive ocean of liquid water.
The furrows visible in pictures are likely due to tidal effects that break up the crust. This creates geysers that repeatedly blow water vapor into space, powered by hot springs in the depths. Over time, minerals have colored the trenches reddish, which gives Europe its special appearance.
Exobiologists believe the thermal springs under the ice are a possible habitat for alien microbes. Europe is accordingly high on NASA's list of priorities: In the mid-2020s, it wants to send a new, billion-dollar probe to Jupiter's moon, the »Europa Clipper«. It is supposed to draw large ellipses around Jupiter and fly past Europe every few weeks at a short distance.
From the point of view of planetologists, the mission could have been a little more ambitious: for example, probes that pivot into an orbit around the moon were repeatedly discussed. However, that would make the mission much more complex. Because large amounts of charged particles whiz around in Jupiter's magnetic field. They therefore require particularly robust electronics and clever mission planning if you want to stay permanently close to the gas giant, which would be necessary for a Europa orbiter. A probe that flies elongated ellipses around Jupiter, on the other hand, is easier to implement.
Some scientists also dream of a landing module. In the meantime, it looked as if ESA could contribute such a small robot to Europa Clipper. In the meantime, however, this plan has become silent. Instead, NASA is now considering a follow-up mission that will focus on landing on Europe. However, the project does not seem to have a high priority. Most recently, NASA put it on the back burner. Probably also because the development at the lead Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena would have competed with the work on the new Mars rover.
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