This Week in Space

Feb 9th 2024

This Week in Space 97

Attempt No Landing There

Hosted by Rod Pyle, Tariq Malik

The Mission of Europa Clipper

New episodes posted every Friday.
Guests: Erin Leonard
Category: News

The moons of the outer solar system have become one of the primary targets of robotic exploration. Previous probes have detected what might be warm, salty oceans below the ice crusts of Saturn's moon Enceladus and Jupiter's Europa. NASA's Europa Clipper will soon be bound for that cold, mysterious world. And Erin Leonard, a project scientist on that mission, joins us to discuss what to expect and what the hopes for life miles below the ice might be. Join us for this exciting look at one of the most compelling bodies in the outer solar system!


  • JPL Layoffs: Discussion on the recent layoffs at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, attributing them to budget constraints and cuts to the Mars sample return mission.
  • AX-3 Mission Recap: Overview of the AX-3 mission's achievements, including its status as the longest private mission to the ISS and its all-European crew.
  • Renaissance Astronomy Text: Analysis of a Renaissance-era astronomy book that may contain hidden messages, offering a unique glimpse into historical views of the cosmos.

Main Topic: Europa Clipper Mission

  • Mission Overview: Erin Leonard explains her role in the Europa Clipper mission, emphasizing collaboration between scientists and engineers to bridge communication gaps.
    Path to Europa Clipper: Leonard shares her academic journey and how it led her to work on the Europa Clipper mission.
  • Europa's Habitability: Discussion on what makes Europa a compelling target for life search in the solar system, including its subsurface ocean and salt content.
  • Technical Challenges: Insights into the engineering feats required to design a spacecraft capable of surviving Jupiter's intense radiation environment.
  • Scientific Instruments: Overview of the Europa Clipper's comprehensive suite of scientific instruments designed to study Europa's ocean, ice shell, and more.
  • Potential for Life: Speculation on the conditions beneath Europa's ice shell and the mission's potential to discover signs of life.
  • Launch Plans and Expectations: Confirmation of the Europa Clipper's scheduled launch in October on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.

Through engaging dialogue and expert commentary, this episode provides a thorough exploration of the Europa Clipper mission's objectives, challenges, and the broader implications for our understanding of life in the universe.

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