The White House's 2015 federal budget request includes a $15 million allocation to develop a mission to Europa, creating a time period of about a decade for NASA if the budget is passed.
sports an icy shell with a potentially life-supporting ocean of liquid water beneath. This ocean could be warmed by tidal reactions with Jupiter, which could produce a geologically active core and create hydro-thermal vents on the ocean floor. The heat produced from these vents could create the potential for life.
"Europa is a very challenging mission operating in a really high radiation environment, and there's lots to do to prepare for it," NASA chief financial officer Beth Robinson told reporters Tuesday. "We're looking for a launch some time in the mid-2020s."
The mission would include a probe to orbit Jupiter, but make dozens of passes by Europa, possibly cruising through plumes of water vapor erupting from the moon's south pole.
The potential $15 million to help fund this project is a small portion of the $17.5 billion allocated to the space agency in the 2015 request. The money would fund preliminary research for the experiment. A mission to Europa would cost about $2 billion to conceivably get off the ground.
"I know people have asked about the total size [of the possible mission], and we're frankly just not sure at this point," she said.
This is the first time funding for an expedition to Europa has been formally requested, but Congress has previously allocated $155 million dedicated to the study of a possible mission in the past. The Europa mission concept will possibly be called the Europa Clipper