NASA takes aim at Europa with new instruments

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  • Published: May 29, 2015
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Detectors / Infrared Spectroscopy / Base Peak / UV/Vis Spectroscopy
thumbnail image: NASA takes aim at Europa with new instruments

NASA has chosen nine instruments which will be onboard the mission to Europa, Jupiter’s moon that it has been targeting for some time. The main aims of the mission are to study the conditions on and below the surface to see if they might be supportive to life.

"Habitability is hard to assess - you have to not only know what is there but how the system works," said the instrument's principal investigator, Diana Blaney of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "By mapping the composition of specific surface features with MISE, we can understand not only what Europa is made of, but also the processes that link the ocean to the surface."

From 33 submissions or prospective instruments, the nine winners are:

  • Plasma Instrument for Magnetic Sounding (PIMS), containing a magnetometer to measure the ice shell thickness, ocean depth, and salinity
  • Interior Characterization of Europa using Magnetometry (ICEMAG), for measuring the magnetic field near the moon
  • Mapping Imaging Spectrometer for Europa (MISE), for studying the composition of Europa, identifying and mapping the distributions of organics, salts, acid hydrates, water ice phases, and other materials to determine the habitability of Europa's ocean
  • Europa Imaging System (EIS) for mapping Europa at high resolution
  • Radar for Europa Assessment and Sounding: Ocean to Near-surface (REASON),a n ice-penetrating radar for examining the structure of the ice shell and any water within
  • Europa Thermal Emission Imaging System (E-THEMIS), which will detect thermally active sites such as vents erupting plumes of water into space
  • MAss SPectrometer for Planetary EXploration/Europa (MASPEX), for studying the composition of the surface and subsurface ocean by measuring the atmosphere of Europa and any surface material ejected into space
  • Ultraviolet Spectrograph/Europa (UVS), for detecting water plumes erupting from Europa's surface
  • SUrface Dust Mass Analyzer (SUDA), for characterising small, solid particles ejected from Europa.

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