NASA Plans Jupiter Mission
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 18, 2009 9:03 PM CST
Here's Jupiter, with its moon Ganymede, courtesy of the Hubble telescope.   (AP Photo/NASA/HUBBLE)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – NASA plans to send an orbiter to study the mysteries of one of Jupiter's moons, the Washington Post reports. Scientists suspect Europa has a massive ocean—possibly bigger than all of the Earth's oceans combined—beneath its ice-covered surface, the Post notes. Don't look up just yet: The $3 billion project—in tandem with the European Space Agency—still needs funding, and it won't launch until 2020. Oh, and the trip takes six years.

"Both agencies will need to undertake several more steps and detailed studies before officially moving forward," said a NASA statement. The ESA probe will focus on another of Jupiter's moons, Ganymede, which is the largest in the solar system. It, too, is thought to have a big ocean, and scientists hope the mission will yield clues in the hunt for extraterrestrial life.