NASA's Europa Clipper probe, which will look for traces of life on Jupiter's ice-covered moon Europa, is coming together at an assembly lab that saw the birth of some of the space agency's most iconic missions including the Saturn explorer Cassini and the Martian rovers.
In a new video released by NASA on Monday (Aug. 15), engineers can be seen moving the 10-foot-tall (3 meters) and 5-foot-wide (1.5 m) Europa Clipper into the High Bay 1 clean room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, where the spacecraft will spend the remainder of its construction in the run up to its launch in October 2024.
The transport into High Bay 1 from a smaller clean room took several days, requiring a whole team of technical personnel to assist with the probe's unwrapping and positioning.
In the upcoming months, engineers will attach an electronics compartment to the main body of the spacecraft, which will shield its sensitive instruments from intense cosmic radiation around Jupiter.
The spacecraft, which contains 2,100 feet (640 m) of cables, will also soon meet its instruments, most of which have already been built.
Europa Clipper, which will arrive at the smallest of Jupiter's four main moons in 2030, will perform about 50 flybys at this ice-covered world, gathering data about Europa's atmosphere, surface and interior. It will attempt to measure the depth and salinity of the moon's ice-covered ocean and the thickness of the ice crust, and look for potential vents of vapor into space.
The suite of instruments that will enable the spacecraft to assess the conditions for life on Europa contains the Plasma Instrument for Magnetic Sounding and the Europa Imaging System wide-angle camera, both of which have already been delivered to NASA JPL. The thermal-emission imaging instrument, called E-THEMIS, and the ultraviolet spectrograph, Europa-UVS, have already been mounted on the spacecraft’s body. NASA said in a statement that most of the flight hardware will be ready by the end of 2022, with the following year and a half to be spent on testing.
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Tereza is a London-based science and technology journalist, aspiring fiction writer and amateur gymnast. Originally from Prague, the Czech Republic, she spent the first seven years of her career working as a reporter, script-writer and presenter for various TV programmes of the Czech Public Service Television. She later took a career break to pursue further education and added a Master's in Science from the International Space University, France, to her Bachelor's in Journalism and Master's in Cultural Anthropology from Prague's Charles University. She worked as a reporter at the Engineering and Technology magazine, freelanced for a range of publications including Live Science, Space.com, Professional Engineering, Via Satellite and Space News and served as a maternity cover science editor at the European Space Agency.