MAR 12, 2024 10:50 AM PDT

Europa Clipper's Golden Record: A Journey of Inspiration and Discovery

This October, NASA’s long-awaited Europa Clipper mission will launch to Jupiter’s icy moon with the goal of ascertaining if it currently possesses the necessary conditions for life to exist in its interior liquid water ocean. Along with the suite of powerful scientific instruments, Europa Clipper will also carry a commemorative plate with U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón’s handwritten “In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa” and a microchip containing more than 2.6 million names submitted by space fans from all over the world.

Image of the commemorative plate affixed NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft with U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón’s handwritten “In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa.” (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The plate will also contain the Drake Equation, which was derived by Dr. Frank Drake on how many technological civilizations could exist in the Milky Way Galaxy, along with a portrait of Dr. Ron Greeley, who is hailed as one of the founding members of planetary science and helped lay the groundwork for the Europa Clipper mission almost 20 years ago. Since the goal of the mission is to explore the potential of life existing in Europa’s deep ocean, waveforms of the word “water” spoken in 103 languages are also etched into the plate, as well. Along with its visionary meaning, the plate will also serve to seal the metal vault built to shield the suite of scientific instruments from the powerful radiation emitted by Jupiter’s magnetic field.

“The content and design of Europa Clipper’s vault plate are swimming with meaning,” said Dr. Lori Glaze, who is the director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters. “The plate combines the best humanity has to 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.”

This commemorative plate continues a long NASA tradition of sending messages into deep space, with the most prominent message being Voyager’s Golden Record, which is carried onboard the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft as they continue their long journey into the unknown.

What fantastic discoveries will Europa Clipper make about Europa’s interior ocean? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

Sources: NASA, NASA JPL, NASA (1), NASA (2)

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of "Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey".
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