NASA spacecraft to carry special message plate on Jupiter's moon. What's on it? - Hindustan Times
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NASA spacecraft to carry special message plate on Jupiter's moon Europa. What's written?

By | Edited by Aniruddha Dhar
Mar 10, 2024 08:28 AM IST

NASA's Europa Clipper mission scheduled for October launch will study whether there are places below the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon that could support life.

When it launches in October, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Europa Clipper spacecraft will carry a triangular metal plate engraved with a special message for potential life on Jupiter's moon, Europa.

The art on the outward side of the plate, which will seal an opening of the vault on NASA’s Europa Clipper.(NASA/JPL-Caltech)
The art on the outward side of the plate, which will seal an opening of the vault on NASA’s Europa Clipper.(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Jupiter's moon exhibits strong evidence of an ocean beneath its icy crust, containing more than twice the amount of water found in all of Earth's oceans combined, the NASA said. The probe's mission is to assess the possibility of life beyond Earth, on Europa, the US space agency added.

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Reaching out to Cosmos: Nasa's special message for Jupiter's Europa

The Europa Clipper mission incorporates an artefact called the Europa Vault Plate, which has special messages and symbolic elements, NASA revealed in a blog post on Friday.

• The plate features an engraving of a poem, "In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa," handwritten by the US Poet Laureate Ada Limón.

• A silicon microchip on the plate holds more than 26 lakh names taken from the public. The microchip will be at the centrepiece of an illustration of a bottle amid the Jovian system – a reference to NASA’s “Message in a Bottle” campaign.

• The outward-facing side (shown below) of the tantalum plate showcases art symbolising Earth's connection to Europa, including waveforms representing the word "water" in 103 languages. At the centre, it has a symbol representing the American Sign Language sign for “water.”

• On the inward-facing side (as shown above), the plate includes the Drake Equation, a mathematical formulation by astronomer Frank Drake estimating the chance of finding advanced civilizations.

• The plate also references radio frequencies for interstellar communication. These frequencies match the radio waves emitted in space by water's components, recognised by astronomers as the "water hole."

• The plate also has a portrait of one of the founders of planetary science, Ron Greeley, a pioneering figure in planetary science and an early advocate for the Europa mission.

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The art on the inward side of the plate, which will seal an opening of the vault on NASA’s Europa Clipper.(NASA/JPL-Caltech)
The art on the inward side of the plate, which will seal an opening of the vault on NASA’s Europa Clipper.(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Why is Nasa sending a probe to Juptier's Europa?

Europa Clipper aims to explore Jupiter's moon, Europa, to assess its potential to support life, said NASA.

• The mission has three primary objectives: determine the thickness of Europa's icy shell and its interactions with the subsurface ocean, investigate its composition, and characterise its geology, the US space agency reported.

• Scientists anticipate that the detailed exploration of Europa will enhance our understanding of astrobiological possibilities for habitable environments beyond Earth.

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In 2030, 260 crore-kilometer journey, Europa Clipper will enter orbit around Jupiter, conducting 49 close flybys of Europa. To shield the electronics of these instruments from Jupiter's intense radiation, they are housed in a robust metal vault. The commemorative plate will be affixed to seal an opening in the vault.

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