Mar 23, 2019 | Updated: 12:48 PM EDT

NASA Plans To Send Seven SMD-Supported instruments To Europa In Search Of Life

Mar 21, 2017 05:07 PM EDT

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Alien Ocean - NASA’s Mission to Europa
Alien Ocean - NASA’s Mission to Europa

NASA is preparing seven SMD supported instruments for their upcoming mission of Jupiter's moon Europa in 2020. The main purpose of this mission is to collect high-resolution images of Europa’s surface and investigate the chemical composition of icy shell. In the earlier mission in 1990, NASA's Galileo space probe strongly suggested that there is a vast ocean of liquid water beneath the icy surface.

Scientists believe that if liquid water is available there then the place might have the sign of life. According to NASA, the ocean floor of Europa is directly in the contact with rocky interior, creating the environment like hydrothermal zone of Earth. Several organisms of Earth thrive at the hydrothermal zones because of the heats generated by the interaction of Water and rocks. To confirm their assumption, NASA is planning to send seven SMD technology instruments that will explore Europa deeply like never before.

There will be two different types of instruments on board, MASPEX, and REASON. The Mass Spectrometer for Planetary Exploration is known as MASPEX. It is a Time-Of-Flight(TOF) spectrometer which is engineered to analyze the composition of Europa's surface and subsurface ocean by measuring any surface material ejected into space. It has highly sensitive dual reflection ion optics to provide high-mass resolution. This not more than a half-meter long instrument is greater than any previous mass spectrometers used by NASA. It can store over 100,000 ions and it is 100,000 times more sensitive than previous instruments which allow the instrument to determine trace of organics levels at less than one PPB.

Radar for Europa Assessment and Sounding: Ocean to Near-surface aka REASON is a dual-frequency (9 MHz and 60 MHz) ice-penetrating radar. It is designed to reveal the hidden structure of Europa's ice shell and potential water within. Phys reported that the longer wavelength(9 MHz) can run through Europa's ice with less interference from surface roughness. The shorter wavelength (60 MHz) will only map the roughness of Europa's ice. By combining two signals NASA will get clear images of Europa.

MASPEX and REASON will help scientists to understand the habitability, origin, evolution, chemical composition, weather and what is inside the icy surface of Europa. Other onboard instruments will measure the magnetic field and emitted heat of the moon. MASPEX will be the most powerful spectrometer ever flown in space. The Southwest Research Institute and NASA's PSD team jointly funding for the development of MASPEX. The REASON development will be funded by Planetary Instrument Definition and Development Program (PIDDP).

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