We all know the government likes to spend money. President Obama’s budget request is always a good way to see what he believes the rest of the government will allow for spending. A small surprise this year though as he requested 18.5 billion dollars for NASA and that is up from 18 billion last time the request came around.
He has said that 30 million of the said billions would be used to set up a mission to Europa. Europa is one of Jupiter’s moons and likely the best hope we have of finding any sort of life within the Milky Way that isn’t on Earth.
Europa has a few things that make it quite similar to Earth: tectonic plates, a possible vast ocean underneath its icy surface, and the likelihood that there will be the chemical compounds capable of supporting life. There have been plans on the books for an orbital spacecraft called the Europa Clipper that would gather information about this particular moon of Jupiter.
The Clipper would be able to analyze whether the atmosphere would be suitable for any sort of habitability. All this information would be used to determine if a lander would be possible and if so, what such a moon landing would require.
The space program is quickly becoming commercial with different countries selling seats aboard rockets to the ISS or International Space Station and developing plans for Mars trips. NASA and its continued funding could be of vital importance to the U.S. as we continue to make new discoveries and is one of the few facilities that represent us as a nation.
The President allotting so much funding for the space program is not only a positive step in the right direction of space exploration but a much needed vote of confidence to us as a first world country.
Update: When I wrote this article the 2016 budget was waiting on approval. It has been approved and according to io9, a reputable science site, and NASA’s own budget proposal, NASA considers the Europa Clipper project one of its top priorities.