How a Europa lander might look (Image: Europa Study Team)
Europa (Image: NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk)
An artist's impression of a lander's eye view from Europa's surface (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
A composite image of Europa's surface captured from repeat flybys (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)
A close-up composite image of ridges and cracks in Europa's surface captured by the Galileo spacecraft in 1997 (Image: NASA/JPL)
Europa's full disk captured from a range of 2 million kilometers (1.2 million miles) by Voyager 1 in 1979 (Image: NASA)
It's an icy inhospitable world, a little smaller than our own Moon: Europa. It's one of Jupiter's four largest satellites, the Galilean moons named after the polymath astronomer who discovered them in 1610. At the surface, the temperature never climbs above about -160º C (-256º F), yet it's thought that beneath the frozen epidermis there could be a liquid saltwater ocean. Were that the case, Europa would be about the best candidate for extraterrestrial life in the Solar System, albeit life in microbial form. That Europa could harbor life isn't news. That NASA is now considering landing a robot on Europa's surface is, and the agency has one or two ideas about what a robot should do when it gets there.
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