NASA is making plans to venture deep into the solar system by sending a probe to Europa to search for life. One of Jupiter’s many moons, Europa has been the subject of much interest ever since the Hubble space telescope captured images of water vapor there in 2012. Some scientists believe that a salty ocean hidden beneath Europa’s glacial crust may contain evidence of life.

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According to Perfect Science, Europa’s ocean is believed to be the most significant subject in terms of scientists finding life outside Earth. Several researchers from NASA’s Ames Research Center recently met to discuss ideas on how that life might be uncovered. They decided to send a probe to Europa to do a series of flyby missions over a period of three and a half years. Known as the Europa Clipper, the NASA-designed probe can orbit the moon and capture detailed images of the surface to help chart the crust covering the mysterious suspected ocean beneath.

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According to NASA, the main goal of the mission is to decide whether the atmosphere on Europa has a composition that would allow it to sustain life beneath the icy surface. At the same time, the images of the vapor plume have the researchers excited as to what they might find.

“Before Hubble spotted the plumes we didn’t know whether we really had an ocean on Europa, we didn’t know whether there was water, and it was a tough place for astrobiology – but now it doesn’t look so tough,” space geophysicists for NASA, Christopher McKay told Perfect Science.

Via Perfect Science

Images via NASA