The mission is a proposed partnership between NASA and the European Space Agency, and scientists on the joint NASA-ESA definition team agreed the science theme for the mission will be "the emergence of habitable worlds around gas giants," a release by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said Monday.
"We've reached hands across the Atlantic to define a mission to Jupiter's water worlds," said Bob Pappalardo, JPL pre-project scientist for the proposed Jupiter Europa Orbiter. "The Europa Jupiter System Mission will create a leap in scientific knowledge about the moons of Jupiter and their potential to harbor life."
The agreement integrates goals being separately developed by NASA and ESA working groups into one unified strategy.
The proposed mission singles out the icy moons Europa and Ganymede as natural laboratories for analyzing the nature, evolution and potential habitability of icy worlds.
While the NASA orbiter would investigate Europa, an ESA probe would focus on Ganymede, with each moon believed to present two different kinds of sub-surface oceans.
NASA and ESA officials gave the Europa Jupiter System Mission priority status for continued study, agreeing it was the most technically feasible of the outer solar system science missions under consideration.