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NASA’s Galileo spacecraft explored the Jupiter system, gathering data, between 1995 and 2003. Research using that data now strongly suggests that the icy moon Europa is venting water into space, a new report in Nature Astronomy says. That moon has long been thought of as the most promising place to search for alien life in the solar system. It’s also known to have a global ocean containing more water than all of Earth’s combined. Finding these plumes raises the possibility that the ocean underneath the moon’s icy shell could be erupting into outer space. This means that testing the alien sea and looking for signs of life could be as simple as sending a spacecraft through a plume of ejected water vapor, reports National Geographic. Ok, it may not be that simple, but it could prove much less complicated than what NASA originally thought, which would involve flying a probe all the way to Europa, landing safely, burrowing down for miles, and then exploring.
The plumes may also come from a lake or some other reservoir trapped in the ice. This still means that an orbiting spacecraft could sample a plume and get a better understanding of what’s underneath the moon’s surface. The Europa Clipper mission, tentatively set for the early 2002s, could potentially fulfill this task.