NASA Europa Clipper to carry unique message to Jupiter’s moon, packed with Earth’s essence

In a celestial nod to human creativity and curiosity, NASA is set to launch its Europa Clipper spacecraft in October, bound for Jupiter’s moon Europa. Nestled within the spacecraft is a symbolic message, marking a departure from NASA’s longstanding tradition of sending inspirational dispatches into the cosmos.

The heart of this cosmic artefact is a triangular metal plate, approximately 7 by 11 inches, constructed from tantalum. Adorning its surface is an engraving of U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón’s handwritten “In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa.” This poetic tribute is accompanied by a silicon microchip stencilled with over 2.6 million names submitted by the public, forming the centrepiece of an illustration depicting a bottle amid the Jovian system- a tribute to NASA’s “Message in a Bottle” campaign.

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Functioning as a modern-day Golden Record for Europa, the plate boasts graphic elements on both sides. The outward-facing panel features art emphasizing Earth’s connection to Europa, including recordings of the word “water” spoken in 103 languages, etched into the plate as waveforms. These linguistic representations radiate from a symbol depicting the American Sign Language sign for “water.”

Europa Clipper’s Scientific Journey and the Vault Plate’s Hidden Secrets

In a parallel to the Voyager spacecraft’s iconic Golden Record, the layered message on Europa Clipper aspires to ignite imaginations and present a unified vision. Lori Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters, underscores the plate’s significance, stating, “The plate combines the best humanity has to offer across the universe- science, technology, education, art, and math.”

Also read: NASA’s Juno mission sheds new light on Jupiter moon Europa’s oxygen production rate

Scheduled to arrive at Jupiter in 2030 after a 2.6-billion-kilometer journey, Europa Clipper will undertake 49 close flybys of Europa. Armed with powerful scientific instruments, the spacecraft aims to gather data about the moon’s subsurface ocean, icy crust, thin atmosphere, and space environment to determine potential habitable conditions.

Inscribed on the inward-facing side of the vault plate is the Drake Equation, a mathematical formulation developed in 1961 by astronomer Frank Drake to estimate the possibility of finding advanced civilizations beyond Earth. Additionally, the plate includes references to radio frequencies used in interstellar communication, known as the “water hole,” symbolizing humanity’s quest for messages from the cosmos.

As Europa Clipper prepares for its October launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, scientists and space enthusiasts eagerly anticipate the revelations this water world may unveil during its decades-long journey.

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