NASA Europa Mission Announced

The Bear Fight Institute, and director Dr. Thomas McCord, are excited to announce their selection for participation in NASA’s planned mission to Europa.

The Bear Fight Institute, located near Winthrop WA, works with NASA and its Jet Propulsion Laboratory to analyze the surface composition of planetary bodies in our solar system and determine what this tells us about their origin and evolution. BFI uses spacecraft to bring infrared spectrometers close to planets, satellites, asteroids and comets to determine the minerals and molecules composing them.

NASA’s planned Europa mission will conduct detailed reconnaissance of Jupiter’s most intriguing moon. The mission is directed at investigating the liquid water ocean below Europa’s thin icy crust and whether it might be habitable for some forms of life. The mission would be launched in the 2020s, and will reach the Jupiter system several years later.

The Bear Fight Institute is part of a small team of nine scientists from JPL, MIT, USGS, and several universities on the Mapping Imaging Spectrometer for Europa (MISE) investigation. MISE will probe the composition of Europa, identifying and mapping the distributions of organics, salts, acid hydrates, water ice phases, and other materials to determine the nature of Europa’s ocean.

The Bear Fight Institute will aid in designing MISE, planning its operation and measurements, and in analyzing returned data, both at JPL, where the instrument will be constructed, and at BFI, where data and other information will be processed and analyzed.  This new effort will build on BFI’s participation in four other currently active space missions.

Last year, NASA invited researchers to submit proposals for instruments to study Europa. Thirty-three proposals were reviewed. Only nine were selected for the mission. The principal and deputy leaders for the MISE team are Drs. Diana Blaney of JPL and Charles Hibbitts of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, both former graduate students of Dr. McCord, as also is one of the other team members.

Dr. McCord has worked with NASA and JPL for nearly 20 years to plan this mission after his role in producing the first results from the Galileo Mission to Jupiter discovering the ocean beneath Europa’s thin icy crust. Dr. Jean-Philippe Combe, also of BFI, also participated in the mission planning over the past several years to help specify and justify the instrument’s characteristics.

More information can be found here:

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