NASA Send Message to Jupiter’s Europa With Clipper Mission – What’s Inside?

11th Mar 2024
NASA Send Message to Jupiter’s Europa With Clipper Mission – What’s Inside?

NASA has shown a design of the message that will head to Jupiter’s moon Europa with the Europa Clipper mission this year. It will represent a triangular metal plate that honours Europa’s connection to Earth in several ways, but mainly – in the realm of its ocean’s investigation.

A metal plate resembling an envelope folded in half

The plate, made of metal tantalum and measuring about 7 by 11 inches (18 by 28 centimetres), will seal an opening in the vault on NASA’s Europa Clipper. It resembles an envelope that is folded in half.

Video Credit: NASA

An audio symbol of “water” in 103 languages

The exterior Europa Clipper plate panel, oriented towards outer space, showcases artwork symbolising water. 

In this artwork, linguists gathered audio recordings of the word “water” in 103 languages. Then, the scientists transformed these audio files into waveforms. They engraved visual depictions of the sound waves onto the plate. The emanating waveforms centre around a representation of the American Sign Language sign for “water.”

Why is water here? Scientists have found proof of the presence of an ocean beneath the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon, Europa. Europa’s ocean holds over twice the volume of water found in all of Earth’s oceans combined. So, water connects our planet with Jupiter’s moon.

By the way, you can hear the recorded languages and see the sign here.

A poem, people’s names and more on the Europa Clipper’s plate

Central to the message to Jupiter’s Europa is an etching of the handwritten poem “In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa” by U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón. 

Additionally, a silicon microchip, adorned with over 2.6 million names contributed by the public, takes a prominent position. This microchip will serve as the focal point within an illustration depicting a bottle amidst the Jovian system. It represents a nod to NASA’s “Message in a Bottle” initiative that encouraged the public to submit their names for inclusion on the spacecraft.

The electronic components for these instruments are securely housed within a substantial metal vault, meticulously crafted to shield them from the intense radiation of Jupiter.

Europa Clipper Plate
Image Credit: NASA

Given that the quest for habitable conditions is a core objective of the mission, the Drake equation is intricately engraved on the inner side of the plate. Formulated by astronomer Frank Drake in 1961, this mathematical equation estimates the likelihood of discovering advanced civilizations beyond Earth.

Furthermore, the Europa Clipper’s plate features a portrait of Ron Greeley, a pioneer in the field of planetary science and one of the discipline’s founders. Greeley’s visionary initiatives from two decades ago, aimed at advancing a mission to Europa, serve as the cornerstone for the Europa Clipper project.

Radio frequencies to communicate with aliens

Lastly, on the inner side of the plate, artistic elements will incorporate a representation of radio frequencies deemed feasible for interstellar communication. This symbolism reflects humanity’s utilization of this radio band to scan for messages from the universe actively. 

Specifically, these frequencies align with the radio waves emitted by water’s molecular components in space. They are recognized by astronomers as the “water hole.” The plate portrays these frequencies as radio emission lines.

Europa Jupiter
Europa in front of Jupiter, photographed by Voyager 1 on March 3rd 1979. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Kevin M. Gill, CC BY 2.0

Deep symbolism of message to Jupiter’s Europa for all humanity

The Europa Clipper mission seeks to provide a cohesive vision, fostering a sense of unity, NASA says.

“The content and design of Europa Clipper’s plate are swimming with meaning. The plate combines the best humanity can offer across the universe – science, technology, education, art, and math. The message of connection through water, essential for all forms of life as we know it, perfectly illustrates Earth’s tie to this mysterious ocean world we are setting out to explore,” – said the director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington Lori Glaze.

“We’ve packed a lot of thought and inspiration into this plate design, as we have into this mission itself,” – added the Project Scientist of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California Robert Pappalardo.

Currently, Europa Clipper’s assembly is being finished at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). After that, the spacecraft will be transported to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for launch in October.

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