The icy surface of Jupiter's moon Europa has long been thought to be capable of supporting life. Because of this, NASA recently put together a research team, whose sole purpose is to discuss how to get a spacecraft on its surface to find out.
Europa, the sixth closest moon to Jupiter, was first discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei, but it was the mission named after Galileo that returned the first images of the moon. These images showed a surface that was smooth with a series of cracks and streaks, which lead scientists to believe its top icy layer contained water underneath. Generally speaking, the presence of water means the potential presence of life, or at least the ability to host life. If this is the case, Earth will no longer be alone as the only habitable planet in our galaxy.
Of course, we're not expecting to find a character like Marvin the Martian on this moon, but scientists believe that the reddish spots and cracks on its surface could be organic molecules. Those molecules could represent a capability of the planet to produce life.
A future mission would send a spacecraft to Europa's surface to study its icy surface and ocean, as well as get a better idea of the moon's geology and make-up. The mission spacecraft would need certain tools, such as seismometers and drills, as well as the ability to collect samples for further study. The research team came up with three objectives for such a mission: studying Europa's composition, learning more about its ocean and ice shell, and understanding its geology.
Unfortunately, a mission to Europa is not going to happen anytime soon. More discussions and planning will be needed to work on the spacecraft model. The big dilemma involves figuring out how to get a spacecraft to Europa and where to land it. But it's definitely a start.