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Nasa making progress in mission to find life on Jupiter's moon

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Space exploration   The first major concept review

Nasa's mission to explore life on Jupiter's moon Europa is moving into the development stage with the completion of the first major concept review.

The space research organisation has completed the preliminary concept level, where it surveyed Europa in detail and investigated its habitability.

Europa programme executive Joan Salute said: "It's a great day for science.

"We are thrilled to pass the first major milestone in the lifecycle of a mission that will ultimately inform us on the habitability of Europa."

In the development or the 'formulation' phase, a spacecraft is planned to be launched to Jupiter in the 2020s.

Once the spacecraft reaches Jupiter's orbit after several years, it would orbit the planet about every two weeks, providing many opportunities for close flybys of Europa.

During the mission period, the spacecraft is planned to have 45 flybys, where it would capture the images of the moon's icy surface at high resolution.

The images would be analysed to understand the composition of the moon and the structure of its interior and icy shell.

Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, is studying the multiple-flyby mission concept, in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, since 2011.

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