Elon Musk’s SpaceX has received a $ 178 million (12 129 million) contract for NASA’s first mission to Europe, Jupiter’s fourth largest moon.
SpaceX will provide “launch services” for the Europa Clipper mission, which is expected to be launched in October 2024 to study Europa through a series of fly-bys, NASA said.
The spacecraft will be launched on a Falcon Heavy rocket owned by Musk from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the space agency added.
The mission aims to find out if the natural satellite hosts living conditions using “an advanced suite of scientific instruments”.
Europe, a frozen moon with a hidden underwater ocean, is 1,940 miles (3,100 kilometers) in diameter – about 90 percent of the Earth’s moon.
The announcement comes amid an ongoing battle between SpaceX and rival Blue Origin, owned by fellow billionaire and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Bezos released an open letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson on Monday, offering NASA billions of dollars in a contract to build a lunar lander for the upcoming Artemis missions.
There is evidence of recent geological formations in the icy 15-mile-thick crust, including small, dark, and characteristic domes about a mile below the surface.
EUROPA: QUICK EVENTS
Europe is 90 percent the size of the Earth’s moon.
It surrounds Jupiter at a distance of about 484 million miles (778 million kilometers).
It completes an orbit of Jupiter every 3.5 Earth days.
The surface of Europe is mostly solid water ice, intersected by fractures.
But its subterranean ocean may contain more than twice as much water as Earth.
The moon has a very delicate oxygen atmosphere – too thin for humans to breathe.
But SpaceX – which made the announcement on its Twitter page – has the contract to send the Europa Clipper.
“NASA has chosen Space Exploration Technologies Corp. “(SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the first Earth mission to conduct detailed research on the moon of Jupiter Europa,” the agency said in a statement.
“The total amount of contracts awarded for launch services is about $ 178 million.”
The main objectives of the mission are to produce high-resolution images of the surface of Europa, to determine its composition and to search for points of recent or ongoing geological activity.
The mission will also measure the thickness of the moon’s icy shell, search for underwater lakes and determine the depth and salinity of Europe’s ocean.
Europe is one of the few locations in the Solar System with liquid water, along with the Earth and the moon Saturn Enceladus, making it the target of interest for NASA.
Thanks to ground-based telescopes, scientists already know that Europe’s surface is mostly water ice.
Scientists have also found evidence that there is an ocean of liquid water or mud ice under the ice crust.
According to NASA, Europe’s subterranean ocean may contain more than twice as much water as Earth.
Last year, Monica Grady, chancellor at the University of Liverpool Hope, said she was “almost certain to be fighting” for Europe to host extraterrestrial life, which she believed was “similar to the intelligence of an octopus”.
A 3D model of the Europa Clipper
NASA will aim to find out if it is right with the release of the Europa Clipper, which will “send a very capable, radiation-resistant spacecraft into a long orbit around Jupiter to perform repetitive icy moon flies.”
NASA did not disclose whether other companies had submitted a bid for the Europa Clipper launch contract, which marks NASA’s latest vote of confidence in Musk.
SpaceX has already carried several cargo cargoes and astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) for the space agency in recent years.
In April, SpaceX received a $ 2.9 billion contract to build a lunar landing spacecraft for the planned Artemis program, which will transport NASA astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972.
But the deal was scrapped after two rival space companies, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and defense chief Dynetics Inc, protested against SpaceX’s choice.
SpaceX CEO and celebrity billionaire Elon Musk (also) owns Tesla and Neuralink
Bezos now claims that NASA “puts an end to substantial competition for years to come” if it does not consider Blue Origin for future contracts.
“It’s not too late for treatment,” Bezos said in a letter to NASA released Monday (July 26th).
“We stand ready to help NASA mitigate its technical risks and resolve its budget constraints and return the Artemis program to a more competitive, reliable and sustainable path.”
Jeff Bezos (photo), founder of Amazon and space travel company Blue Origin, flew into space on July 20, 2021
SpaceX’s partially reusable 23-story Falcon Heavy, now the world’s most powerful space launch vehicle, launched its first commercial payload into orbit in 2019.
In May 2020, SpaceX transferred successfully NASA Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on a 19-hour ISS voyage mark the first test flight of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.
In the process, it became the first US launch orbit crew since NASA’s space shuttle program ended in 2011.
NASA will land the first woman and the next man on the moon in 2024 as part of the Artemis mission
Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the Moon in Greek mythology.
NASA has chosen to personify its path back to the moon, which will see astronauts return to the lunar surface by 2024 – including the first woman and the next man.
Artemis 1, a former exploration mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will allow humans to explore the moon and Mars.
Artemis 1 will be the first complete flight test of NASA’s space exploration system: the Orion spacecraft, the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and ground systems at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Artemis 1 will be a seamless flight that will be the basis for exploring deep human space and will demonstrate our commitment and ability to extend human existence to the moon and beyond.
During this flight, the spacecraft will be launched into the most powerful rocket in the world and will fly farther than any manned spacecraft.
It will travel 280,000 miles (450,600 km) from Earth, thousands of miles beyond the moon during a mission of about three weeks.
Artemis 1, a former exploration mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will allow humans to explore the moon and Mars. This graphic explains the various stages of the mission
Orion will stay in space longer than any astronaut ship without anchoring in a space station and returning home faster and warmer than ever.
With this first exploration mission, NASA is leading the next steps in human exploration into deep space where astronauts will build and begin testing the near-moon systems needed for lunar surface missions and exploration to other destinations farther from Earth. including Mars.
The will will lead the crew in a different direction and will test Orion critical systems with people on board.
The SLS rocket from an initial configuration capable of sending more than 26 metric tons to the moon, to a final configuration capable of sending at least 45 metric tons.
Together, the Orion, SLS and ground systems at Kennedy will be able to meet the most demanding crew and long-distance cargo needs.
Finally, NASA seeks to create a sustainable human presence on the moon by 2028 as a result of the Artemis mission.
The space bureau hopes that this colony will reveal new scientific discoveries, show new technological developments and lay the foundations for private companies to build a lunar economy.