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Jupiter moon Europa 'likeliest to have life'

Astronomers say the Jupiter moon Europa is the 'likeliest to have life' because of its ocean, thin ice shelf.

Europa jupiter moon 2013 02 18Enlarge
Scientists from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory present a video of images of Jupiter's frozen moon Europa taken by the Galileo spacecraft. (MIKE NELSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Europa was closely observed for the first time by the twin Voyager probes in 1979 and then, in more detail, by Galileo in the 1990s.When it comes to life outside planet Earth, Jupiter's Europa trumps Mars.

While Mars is currently the focus of the US exploration, astronomers say Europa is the most likely place in the solar system to have life, Agence France-Press reported.

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The sixth closest moon to Jupiter, Europa has an ocean, a relatively thin ice shelf and is home to oxidants -- much more habitable than the Red Planet's deserts.

"Europa is the most likely place in our solar system beyond Earth to possess .... life," said Robert Pappalardo, a planetary scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

"And it is the place we should be exploring now that we have a concept mission we think is the right one to get there for an affordable cost," he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

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Because of this, NASA wants to team up with Johns Hopkins University in Maryland for a new exploration project.

The $2 billion project, named Clipper, could be launched by 2021.

It would take an estimated three to six years to reach Europa, The Daily Mail reported.

Europa was closely observed for the first time by the twin Voyager probes in 1979 and then, in more detail, by Galileo in the 1990s.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/130218/jupiter-moon-europa-likeliest-have-life