NASA prepares to ship 103 languages to Jupiter moon

NASA has revealed the commemorative artefact it will send to Jupiter’s moon Europa later this year.

As is traditional aboard many spacefaring missions, the Europa Clipper will carry an engraved Earth message to its destination.

A tantalum plate will have engravings on either side. One is a poem written by the United States’ Poet Laureate Ada Limón titled “In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa”. The other shows waveforms representing the spoken word for ‘water’ from 103 languages.

Engravings on a triangular metal plate
Credit: NASA/JPL
A silver plate with waveform patterns on it
Credit: NASA/JPL

A silicon microchip stencilled with 2.6m Earthling names will also be embedded into the plate. These were submitted as part of a special invitation from NASA for the global public to submit names for the engraving.

“The content and design of Europa Clipper’s vault plate are swimming with meaning,” says NASA’s Planetary Science Division direct Lori Glaze.

 “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.”

Other engravings on the tantalum plate include an illustration of early Europa exploration program scientist Ron Greely, and etchings of the Drake Equation – written by astronomer Frank Drank in 1961 as a way to estimate possibilities of finding civilisation outside of the solar system.

The Clipper is nearing the final stages of preparation for its launch in October this year.

Instruments are loaded on the nasa europa clipper
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Already loaded on board the spacecraft are 10 NASA science instruments that will work simultaneously to monitor the characteristics of the moon on each fly-by.

Among the instruments are a magnetometer, plasma sensor, mass spectrometer, dust analyser, UV light sensor and imaging spectrometer, 2 radar instruments and 2 cameras.

Europa is one of Jupiter’s four largest moons first seen through a telescope by Galileo Galilei in the early 17th century. It remains one of the solar system’s most enticing worlds, with a long-held hypothesis that a liquid water ocean exists beneath its thick, icy surface.

The Europa Clipper’s mission is to explore the moon and determine whether it is capable of supporting life.

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