NASA has been formulating a mission to Europa for years, driven in part by the long-standing question of whether the origin of life was a unique event (i.e. Earth) or whether it was repeated elsewhere in the solar system. Water was a key ingredient for life on Earth, so the search for life gravitates toward bodies harboring water. Europa, Mars and Enceladus are, therefore, prime targets for exploring planetary habitats. Recently, the White House allocated $30 million in its fiscal 2016 budget request to formulate a Europa mission. The mission design is narrowing in on the Europa “Clipper” concept—a Jupiter orbiting spacecraft that will make ~45 flybys of Europa. A primary goal of the mission is to study Europa’s subsurface ocean.
This talk will focus on the initial magnetometer observations from NASA’s Galileo mission that led to the discovery of Europa’s ocean. Based on ~6 Europa flybys it was demonstrated that anomalous magnetic field perturbations near the moon were consistent with an induced magnetic field. Uncovering the detailed characteristics of Europa’s ocean is an inverse problem relying heavily on accurate magnetic field measurements. The Clipper mission concept includes both magnetic field and plasma measurements for this inverse problem. As time permits, we can discuss whales, fish and other extraterrestrial possibilities.