The mission to Europe is becoming more real, although there are difficulties

Published on August 24, 2019

The mission to Europe is becoming more real, although there are difficulties

    NASA always has a lot of ideas. Some of them are being implemented, and quite successfully, and some - are dying at the concept stage. The problem is often not that the idea itself was bad, it just breaks up about the harsh reality - lack of finances, lack of approval from officials, etc. Currently, the agency is planning two missions to the satellite of Jupiter, the planetoid of Europe. So far, both missions are under consideration.

    One of them - Europa Clipper, will allow to explore Europe with the help of the closest approach with it - the distance to the surface will be only 25 kilometers. Clipper’s scientific tools will be able to assess the state of the ice of the planetoid, as well as learn about the various manifestations of European activity - for example, geological. There is a second mission - it is even more ambitious and provides for the possibility of planting, sampling and finding traces of life in these samples.

    The first mission is more realistic than the second, both in terms of the possibility of implementation and in terms of financing - it should receive about $ 265 million of support from the state. Both missions are extremely complex, long-term and expensive. This is not about hundreds of millions of dollars, but about billions. If everything works out, the Clipper will fly to Europe as early as 2022.

    The second mission, with the Lender, is more complicated, since the apparatus needs to sink to the surface of the glacier, which has been dug up by cracks. If something goes wrong, the super-expensive mission will be one of NASA's biggest failures. The problem is also that the same Clipper weighs about 6 tons (or rather, it will weigh when and if it is made). But the weight of the Lender will be about 16 tons. Not every booster can send such a heavy load on such a long journey.

    And Lender has not yet received funding - the budget allocation document has not been signed by responsible officials from the White House. So far, it is being discussed in Congress, where the project has both supporters and opponents. So far, for Lender, “only” $ 195 million is needed, but in the future it will take much more money to realize this mission.

    However, NASA seems to know something that the man in the street doesn't know. Here recently announced the collection of proposals for the equipment of the Lender. Representatives of the agency plan to collect the opinion of the scientific community about the need to include these or other scientific tools in the packaging of Lender. These tools should help in exploring Europe as efficiently as possible.

    The collection of applications closes on August 24 of this year. Survey participants are asked to provide only realistic ideas, since the mission is already so expensive, and no one will allocate funds to develop some semi-fantastic devices and systems.

    On the surface of Europe, the Lender should stay for about 20 days. During this time, he will collect about 33 kg of samples. The mission’s energy capacity is 1600 watt-hours, the volume of transmitted data does not seem to be very large. One thing is for sure - a lender must have a drill that has not yet been developed. This tool should be translated into reality in just a year, and it will be drilled to a depth of at least 1 meter. The drill will be developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

    In addition, those who plan to make their own proposal on the scientific tools of Lender are asked to send only projects that correspond to the technical characteristics of the system. The device can not weigh more than 16 tons, in addition, it has limited energy resources.

    Initially, the cost of the second mission was about 4 billion US dollars. But after the Congress began to discuss the feasibility of allocating such a large amount for a mission that is technically very difficult to implement, NASA representatives significantly reduced some items from the list of expenses.

    By itself, the mission is very important for science, because it will help to give a final answer regarding the question of the existence of life on other planets of the solar system.

    Earlier, the flight to Europe was supported by US President Donald Trump. In his opinion, the flight to the satellite of Jupiter is important for science. But Trump thinks it's inappropriate to fly to Mars.because of the difficulties in implementing the plan to create a colony of people on Mars. According to Trump, the colony is needed first on the Moon, which is much closer to Earth and where it is possible to work out methods for building a “space town” in extreme conditions.