NASA unveils a design for humanity's message heading to Jupiter's moon Europa

This side of a memorial plaque mounted on NASA's Europa Clipper spacecraft shows a handwritten poem by American poet laureate Ada Lemon, “In Praise of Mystery: An Ode to Europa.” It will be attached to a tiny silicon chip on which the names provided by the public are written. Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

When it launches in October, the agency's Europa Clipper spacecraft will carry a richly layered dispatch that includes more than 2.6 million names submitted by the public.

Follow in NASAIn keeping with the tradition of sending inspirational messages into space, the agency has special plans for the Europe Clipper, which will be launched later this year toward Jupiter's moon Europa. The Moon shows strong evidence of an ocean beneath its icy crust, containing more than twice the amount of water as all of Earth's oceans combined. The triangular metal plate on the spacecraft will respect this connection to Earth in several ways.

At the heart of the artifact is a handwritten inscription by American Poet Laureate Ada Lemon.”In Praise of Obscurity: An Ode to Europe“, along with a silicon microchip printed with more than 2.6 million names submitted by the public. The microchip will be the centerpiece of an illustration of a bottle at the center of the Jovian system — a reference to NASA's “Message in a Bottle” campaign, which invited the public to submit their names with the spacecraft .

“Gold record” for Europe

Made of tantalum metal and measuring approximately 7 x 11 inches (18 x 28 cm), the plate features graphic elements on both sides. The outward-facing panel features art that highlights the land's connection to Europe. Linguists collected recordings of the word “water” spoken in 103 languages, from language families around the world. The audio files were converted into waveforms (visual representations of sound waves) and etched into the plate. Waveforms radiate from a symbol representing the American Sign Language sign meaning “water.”

NASA Europa Clipper water wave plate

The art on this side of the panel, which will close the vault hatch on NASA's Europa Clipper, features waveforms that are visual representations of the sound waves formed by the word “water” in 103 languages. In the middle is a symbol representing the American Sign Language sign that means “water.” Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

To hear the audio of languages ​​spoken and see the sign, go to: go.nasa.gov/MakeWaves.

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In the spirit of the Voyager spacecraft Golden recordFeaturing sounds and images to convey the richness and diversity of life on Earth, the multi-layered message on Europa Clipper aims to spark the imagination and offer a unified vision.

“The content and design of the Europa Clipper vault panel is bathed in meaning,” said Lori Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The painting brings together the best that humanity has to offer across the universe – science, technology, education, art and mathematics. The message of connection through water, essential to all life as we know it, perfectly illustrates Earth’s connection to this mysterious ocean world we set out to explore.”

Access to the universe

In 2030, after a 1.6 billion-mile (2.6 billion km) journey, Europa Clipper will begin orbiting Earth. Jupiter, making 49 flights close to Europe. To determine whether conditions exist that could support life, a powerful array of spacecraft was used Science tools It will collect data about the moon's subsurface ocean, icy crust, thin atmosphere and space environment. The electronics for these instruments are housed in a massive metal vault designed to protect them from Jupiter's harsh radiation. A memorial plaque will close a hole in the vault.


Learn more about how Europe Clipper's vault plate engravings were designed and the inspiration for the multi-layer plate letter. Credit: NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory-California Institute of Technology

Since the search for habitable conditions is central to the mission,… Drake equation Engraved on the plate as well – on the side facing inward. Astronomer Frank Drake developed the mathematical formula in 1961 to estimate the possibility of finding advanced extraterrestrial civilizations. The equation has inspired and directed research in astrobiology and related fields ever since.

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Additionally, the artwork on the inward-facing side of the plaque will include a reference to radio frequencies considered suitable for interstellar communication, symbolizing how humanity uses this radio band to listen to messages from the universe. These specific frequencies correspond to radio waves emitted into space by components of water, and astronomers know them as a “water hole.” They are depicted on the plate as radio emission lines.

Finally, the plaque includes a portrait of one of the founders of planetary science, Ron Greeley, whose early efforts to develop the Europa mission two decades ago laid the foundation for the Europa Clipper.

“We combined a lot of ideas and inspiration in designing this panel, just as we did on this mission itself,” says project scientist Robert Pappalardo of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “It's been a decades-long journey, and we can't wait to see what the Europa Clipper will show us in this aquatic world.”

Once Europa Clipper is completed being assembled at JPL, the spacecraft will be shipped to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for launch in October.

More about the mission

Europe Clipper's main scientific goal is to determine whether there are places beneath Jupiter's icy moon, Europa, that could support life. The mission's three main science objectives are to determine the thickness of the Moon's icy crust and its surface interactions with the ocean below, investigate its composition, and characterize its geology. The mission's detailed exploration of Europa will help scientists better understand the astrobiological potential of habitable worlds beyond our planet.

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