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I recently studied that life may exist on Europa, an icy moon of Jupiter.

Does NASA plan to land a spacecraft on Europa to study its environment in the near future?

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  • $\begingroup$ I guess that individuals in the business give the concept some thought informally, because they are motivated by it. If suddenly given a go ahead, as inspired by Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, I think NASA would say: "An unofficial study which we undertook of precisely this eventuality... " Rigorous as they are, within only 90 days NASA suddenly had a very elaborate plan ready for how to send humans to Mars when the president asked for one 25 years ago. Sorry if too off topic here. $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Dec 7 '15 at 15:25
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"Plan" is a vague word...

NASA has an orbiter mission in the works: Europa Clipper as a predicate mission prior to any attempt to land.

A Europa Lander is a "concept under study" - that is, they are making plans to do the project, but haven't budgeted for it, nor have then given the actual project the proverbial "green light." NASA does have a page about a Europa Lander

So, at present, they intend to do so eventually, but a specific mission is not yet in the works.

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  • $\begingroup$ Is not there a recent statement by NASA officials with 'priority targets' including & short-listing Europa? $\endgroup$ – s-m-e Aug 15 '13 at 17:43
  • $\begingroup$ "Target" does not mean "landing". A Europa orbiter was one of the highest priority flagship science missions in the last planetary science decadal study commissioned by NASA. $\endgroup$ – Mark Adler Dec 7 '15 at 22:15
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Land, no... Study, yes! There is a new mission called JUICE lead by ESA and in partnership with NASA to study the Galilean moons of Jupiter.

The entire purpose of the JUICE mission is to:

to characterise the conditions that may have led to the emergence of habitable environments among the Jovian icy satellites, with special emphasis on the three ocean-bearing worlds, Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto...

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  • $\begingroup$ The question was about NASA, and NASA is looking at Europa lander concepts. So this doesn't answer the question correctly with "Land, no". $\endgroup$ – Mark Adler Dec 7 '15 at 22:09
  • $\begingroup$ @MarkAdler - Yes, you are correct. I threw this in because I thought Hash might be interested and it is related, thought tangentially. NASA is going to be a partner on JUICE. One of my colleagues is a Co-I on one of the instrument proposals. $\endgroup$ – honeste_vivere Dec 8 '15 at 12:15
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In addition to NASA's plans, a key figure pushing for Europa missions is Congressman Culberson, who is in line to become the next chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee responsible for NASA’s budget.

The interesting part of Europa (its ocean) is buried under 30 km of ice. Getting to that ocean is a challenge we haven't solved on Earth, let alone halfway across the Solar system. So this is what's being worked on at the moment. Europa Clipper's results will help solve the challenge, it is hoped (it will look for vents where liquid water comes to the surface, for example). Once we have a feasible solution, it's time to start planning a lander mission.

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  • $\begingroup$ It seems to me that 30 km of ice should be trivial to seismic studies. $\endgroup$ – Jerard Puckett Dec 8 '15 at 4:42
  • $\begingroup$ Seismic studies are nice, but to find out if there's life on Europa, you need chemical samples from the ocean. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Dec 8 '15 at 7:01

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