NASA Wants Your Mission Ideas To See if Europa Contains Life

Jul 18, 2014 05:14 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

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NASA wants your help to discover whether or not Europa's surface is hiding a liquid ocean as the moon circles Jupiter two planets away from us.

Scientists have long been searching for life in other worlds, and icy Europa seems to be a prime candidate for liquid water and possibly life somewhere other than Earth, reported.

"This solicitation will select instruments which may provide a big leap in our search to answer the question: are we alone in the universe?" NASA associate administrator for science John Grunsfeld said in a press release.

The space agency hopes to launch the nearly $1 billion mission sometime in the 2020s, planning to put eight instruments on a satellite. The instruments would either be put into orbit around the moon or fly by it multiple times.

NASA has allocated $15 million in its proposed budget for next year to develop the robotic mission, NASA chief financial officer Elizabeth Robinson told the Associated Press in March.

If it launches in 2025, the mission would likely reach Europa by 2030,  previously reported. The moon is covered with a subsurface ocean that holds nearly two times the amount of water found on Earth, and it stays in a constant liquid state, according to iO9.

Sending a mission to icy Europa would be even more of a thrill than more exploration of Mars due to the moon's intriguing sea, said Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb.

"There might be fish under the ice," she told the AP.

Ideas for a Europa mission are due by Oct. 17, after which they will be read by a review panel. Around 20 will be selected in April 2015 for preliminary studies.

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