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U.S. Congress Unexpectedly Bankrolls Europa Mission

Hey, remember that time the U.S. Congress went over NASA’s head and outright demanded a mission to Europa?

No, I’m serious. The Tea Party’s record on many science-related issues is (to put it gently) a little bit questionable, but when it comes to exobiology, they’re on point. The Obama administration asked for $15 million to go towards long-term Europa mission research—and Congress unexpectedly earmarked $100 million for the mission instead. What this means, as Discovery News’ Irene Klutz explains, is that the planned Europa mission may actually move forward ahead of schedule:

“This mission does not officially exist, though the president’s budget did request $15 million this year to study low-cost concepts (a step in the right direction),” Casey Dreier, advocacy director with California-based Planetary Society, wrote in a column.

“$100 million is a considerable increase,” Dreier wrote. “NASA would be crazy not to use this funding to start a real mission, but that decision likely lies with the Office of Management and Budget, which approves their funding requests. Let’s hope they get the message in time to request a new start in 2016.”

The original plan for a Europa mission pointed to a 2030-ish launch date—but if the $100 million mission budget makes it to the President’s desk, and public response warrants long-term bipartisan support, it’s not completely beyond the realm of possibility that NASA could land a probe on Europa’s icy surface at some point within the next ten years.  

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Tom Head is an author or coauthor of 29 nonfiction books, columnist, scriptwriter, research paralegal, occasional hellraiser, and proud Jackson native. His book Possessions and Exorcisms (Fact or Fiction?) covers the recent demand for exorcists over the past 30 years and demonic possession.
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