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Europa or bust? Maybe not. Top 9 priorities for planetary research missions

2. Jupiter Europa Orbiter

Outer Planet Flagship Mission / NASA
This artist's rendering provided by NASA shows the Jupiter Europa Orbiter above Europa, with Jupiter and its magnetosphere visible in the background.

Europa, with an ocean thought to lie below its icy crust, is a prime candidate for hunting for life beyond Earth. The Jupiter Europa Orbiter would spend 2-1/2 years orbiting Jupiter, with a special emphasis on answering questions about Europa's make-up raised by NASA's Galileo mission, which ended in 2003. The Jupiter Europa Orbiter is currently estimated to cost $4.7 billion in FY2015 dollars. This comes in at No. 2 on the NRC's big-mission list. But the panel recommends that it, too, move forward only if the mission's ambitions are cut back and NASA's space-science budgets increase to a point where MAX-C and JEO can proceed without affecting other priorities the panel has set.

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