NASA just unveiled the message plate to greet Jupiter's moon Europa

NASA's upcoming Europa Clipper mission will carry a unique artifact to Jupiter's moon Europa, blending science, technology, and art. The spacecraft is set to launch in October and will journey over 1.6 billion miles to orbit Jupiter, making multiple flybys of Europa. The aim is to investigate the icy moon, which is believed to harbor an ocean beneath its crust, potentially creating conditions suitable for life.

The commemorative plate on the Europa Clipper features U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón's poem "In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa" alongside a silicon microchip engraved with over 2.6 million names from the public. This "Message in a Bottle" campaign adds a personal touch to the scientific mission. Lori Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA, explained, "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."

The plate showcases waveforms representing the word "water" in 103 languages, emphasizing the universal significance of water as a life-sustaining element. Robert Pappalardo, Project Scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, stated, "We've packed a lot of thought and inspiration into this plate design, as we have into this mission itself."

Here are the features of the commemorative plate mounted on NASA's Europa Clipper spacecraft:

  • Engraving of U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón's handwritten poem "In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa."
  • A silicon microchip stenciled with over 2.6 million names submitted by the public.
  • Graphic elements highlighting Earth's connection to Europa, with waveforms representing the word "water" in 103 languages.
  • A symbol representing the American Sign Language sign for "water" at the center of the waveforms.
  • The Drake Equation etched onto the inward-facing side, estimating the possibility of finding advanced civilizations beyond Earth.
  • Artwork on the inward-facing side includes a reference to the radio frequencies considered plausible for interstellar communication, symbolizing humanity's attempts to listen for messages from the cosmos.
  • Radio emission lines depicted on the plate match the radio waves emitted in space by the components of water, known as the "water hole."
  • The cartoon character Calvin, from Calvin and Hobbes, urinating on a sign that reads, "ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS, EXCEPT EUROPA. ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE."
  • A portrait of Ron Greeley, one of the founders of planetary science, whose efforts contributed to the development of the Europa mission.

(One of the above isn't really on the plate.)

The art on this side of the plate, which will seal an opening of the vault on NASA's Europa Clipper, features waveforms that are visual representations of the sound waves formed by the word "water" in 103 languages. At center is a symbol representing the American Sign Language sign for "water." Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech