hunt for life

NASA just passed a major milestone in the hunt for alien life

We’re one step closer to Europa.

Originally Published: 

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

What’s lurking beneath the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa?

We could find out in the next decade — thanks to NASA’s Europa Clipper mission.

This week, NASA announced the completion of the main body of the Europa Clipper spacecraft. The announcement marks a major milestone on the way to its 2024 launch.

The Europa Clipper’s body was built in Maryland at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) and has since been moved to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.

Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

The 10-foot-tall aluminum cylinder that makes up the body contains the spacecraft’s main components: radios and electronics, thermal loop tubing, and the propulsion system.

Once finished, the Clipper will be the largest NASA spacecraft ever designed for an interplanetary mission.


Here are 5 new views of the Clipper’s main body:

5. The Clipper’s main body inside a shipping container as it traveled from APL to JPL — a distance of over 2600 miles.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

4. Technicians and engineers unwrap the main body after it arrives in California.

3. The main body was inspected upon landing.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

2. This is just one piece of the main body: A section of the radio frequency module, part of the spacecraft’s telecommunications system.

Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman


After its launch in 2024, the Clipper will take 6 years to reach Europa, which is approximately 1.8 billion miles from Earth.

It will begin to investigate the ocean world in 2031. Then, we will get a clearer picture of what lies below Europa’s surface — and its potential to host life.

NASA via Giphy

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