On to Europa!
NASA continues to deliver good science and great decisions! After extensive review of competing proposals, the selection committee decided that the next Outer Planets mission would focus on the potentially life-bearing moon, Europa. I was happy that they chose Europa as the Great Cassini has (and continues) to deliver tons of data on Titan. Let’s show some love for some other planets!
The new orbiter is expected to launch in 2020 (perfect timing with our expected return to the Moon, if all goes well with the Constellation program). It will arrive in 2025 and study both Jupiter and Europa over a period of 4 years. Other highlights would include flybys of Io, Ganymede, and Callisto.
This will be the second extensive exploration of the Jovian system since Galileo ended its eight year mission by plunging into Jupiter’s atmosphere in 2003. The Juno mission (which is being run out of my new hometown’s Marshall Space Flight Center) will launch in two years with a goal of studying our resident gas giant in detail.