NASA has spent decades studying many of the planets in our solar system close by. Probes such as Juno and Cassini have taught us much about the conditions of the planets they are sent to, but often the moons orbiting these planets are as interesting as the planets themselves. Europe, one of Jupiter's moons, is of particular interest to astronomers, and NASA is sending a new spacecraft to check it out.
The mission, called Europa Clipper, will see a spacecraft sent to Europe and remain in orbit around the moon for several years. The mission will try to answer many questions about Europe, but for that to happen, the spacecraft has an incredibly powerful antenna.
In a new blog post, NASA reveals some of its internal tests related to Europe Clipper and more specifically the high antennas that the spacecraft will be equipped with. The massive bowl will ease the communication between the spacecraft and its handlers back on Earth and play an important role in the mission's success or failure.
At present, a full-scale prototype of the antenna (seen above) is being tested in experimental testing area at NASA's Langley Research Center. The tests will help engineers see how the antenna will perform when it is far from the ground and radiant information back to NASA. Of course, securing the transmission of the data that the spacecraft collects is very important, and the antenna should just shut down its signals.
The Europe Clipper mission will not start for at least three to four years, but work done today will be crucial to its success. Once the spacecraft has been launched and comes to Europe, it will spend at least three years reproducing high resolution images and other readings that potentially reveal whether the conditions on the ice moon are sufficient to support life.