Elon Musk’s SpaceX Awarded NASA Contract For Mission To Jupiter’s Moon Europa

Elon Musk’s private rocket company SpaceX has been awarded a $178 million contract for NASA’s first mission to Europa, Jupiter’s fourth-largest moon.

The Europa Clipper mission is set for ignition in October 2024 on a Falcon Heavy rocket owned by Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, according to a recent NASA statement.

NASA’s support for Elon Musk has been unwavering, as his company has carried a number of cargo payloads and astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA in recent years.

Earlier this year, SpaceX was awarded a $2.9 billion contract to build the lunar lander spacecraft for the upcoming Artemis mission that would launch NASA astronauts back to the moon for the first time since 1972.

However, the contract was suspended after two competing space companies, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Dynetics Inc, protested against NASA’s choosing of SpaceX.

Europa’s Potential For Life

Musk’s 23-story Falcon Heavy rocket, the current most powerful operational space launch craft on the planet, flew its first commercial payload into orbit back in 2019.

NASA has not specified what other companies may have expressed interest in the Europa Clipper launch contract.

The probe’s mission is to collect data from icy Europa, which is a little smaller than our moon and is a top candidate in the search for life elsewhere in the universe.

NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in 1997 observed that a bend in Europa’s magnetic field seemed to have been caused by a geyser gushing through its frozen crust from a massive ocean. The findings supported other evidence of Europa plumes.

One of the Clipper mission’s tasks is to produce high-quality photographs of Europa’s surface, determine its composition, look for signs of geologic activity, measure the thickness of its icy crust and determine how deep and salty its ocean is, according to NASA.

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