Burbank Library Holds Europa Clipper Mission Preview

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Artist’s rendering of NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft. (Image Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Two Europa Clipper team members from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena will present an overview of the upcoming mission at the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Library on Wednesday, May 15. Project Staff Scientist Dr. Erin Leonard and Science Systems Engineer Jenny Kampmeier will discuss aspects of the Europa Clipper’s planned scientific study and the work that remains in getting the probe off the ground.

Scheduled to launch October 10, 2024, NASA’s Europa Clipper will examine the habitability of Jupiter’s icy ocean moon Europa. After a 5 and 1/2 year cruise, including gravity assists at Mars and Earth, the spacecraft will enter orbit around Jupiter and perform nearly 50 flybys of Europa over a four-year period.

The Europa Clipper mission will collect information on the moon’s ice shell and ocean, its composition, and geology, in order to create a comprehensive view of the icy world’s habitability.

Leonard will highlight the science of Europa Clipper and its 10 scientific investigations, and discuss what makes Europa an interesting target to send a spacecraft and how the instruments on Europa Clipper will work together to answer the science questions we have about Europa.

Kampmeier will describe the instruments, the current status of the spacecraft build, and the final steps as NASA’s largest spacecraft readies for launch. She will also discuss the design of the mission trajectory, how the spacecraft enables the mission, and some of the unique aspects of building/testing Europa Clipper before it launches in October.

The image on the left shows a region of Europa’s crust made up of blocks which are thought to have broken apart and “rafted” into new positions. These features are the best geologic evidence to date that Europa may have had a subsurface ocean at some time in its past. Combined with the geologic data, the presence of a magnetic field leads scientists to believe an ocean is most likely present at Europa today. In this false color image, reddish-brown areas represent non-ice material resulting from geologic activity. White areas are rays of material ejected during the formation of the 15-mile (25-kilometer) diameter impact crater Pwyll (see global view). Icy plains are shown in blue tones to distinguish possibly coarse-grained ice (dark blue) from fine-grained ice (light blue). Long, dark lines are ridges and fractures in the crust, some of which are more than 1,850 miles (3,000 kilometers) long. These images were obtained by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft during Sept. 7, 1996, December 1996, and February 1997 at a distance of 417,489 miles (677,000 kilometers). (Image Courtesy NASA)

“As a scientist, I am excited for all of the ground-breaking science that this mission will achieve at Europa,” Leonard commented. “From understanding the surface, to the thickness of the ice shell, to the properties of the sub-surface ocean, Clipper will teach us so much about Europa. But, the part I am most excited for when Clipper gets to Europa are the surprises—the discovery of questions that we do not even know to ask yet.”

“As an engineer, I am excited to see our spacecraft launch off this planet and get into space where it belongs!” Kampmeier said. “Europa Clipper is a complex and incredibly capable piece of hardware, and flying the spacecraft for the first time will be a thrilling moment in the history of our mission and for the future of exploration at Europa.”

The presentation will cover Europa’s surface and geology, Europa Clipper’s Vault Plate, the spacecraft in magnetic testing, the probe’s solar arrays, and the Europa Clipper mission timeline.

NASA’s Europa Clipper, with all of its instruments installed, is visible in the clean room of High Bay 1 at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on January 19, 2024. The tent around the spacecraft was erected to support electromagnetic testing. (Image Courtesy NASA)

“I have been following the development of the Europa Mission project for many years now,” commented Burbank Librarian Hubert Kozak. “It has faced bureaucratic ups and downs, as well as many concept revisions. It’s a minor miracle that a complex project like this ever makes it to the launchpad.”

“It involves a journey of persistence, hope, and uncertainty, the work of an entire career, as it has been for Europa’s Project Scientist Robert Pappalardo,” he added. “I’ve heard him movingly explain that the thing that sustains you through all of this is that you have to love the work you do and the people you work with. I congratulate and thank them all for this remarkable achievement.”

The Europa Clipper presentation runs from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Buena Vista branch of the  Burbank Public Library. The library is located at 300 N. Buena Vista Street in Burbank. The event is free and open to the public. Plenty of free parking is available on site.

For more information and to register for the event, visit the Burbank Public Library’s webpage.

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