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CU Boulder engineers create device for Jupiter moon exploration

CU Boulder engineers create device for Jupiter moon exploration
Posted at 10:35 PM, Aug 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-18 00:35:31-04

BOULDER, Colo. — CU Boulder scientist are celebrating the completion of a space instrument that will travel to Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa and determine if it can sustain life.

Designed and built at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) on the CU Boulder campus, the $50 million SUDA instrument — or Europa Surface Dust Analyzer — will travel aboard a NASA spacecraft and travel 1.9 billion miles across our solar system.

It will move closer to Europa's surface than any other spacecraft and be the first to gather particles.

Scientist believe Europa has a vast ocean that contains more saltwater than our oceans here on Earth. SUDA will analyze particles without touching the surface and determine if those liquid oceans could harbor conditions for suitable life.

“There are eight other instruments on Europa Clipper. So in addition to SUDA, there's an imaging system that will take the most detailed photos up close to Europa. There are also other sensors, radar magnetometer, near-infrared spectroscopy, that will tell us about the chemical composition of the surface from another perspective. And so, by complementing our data with their data, we'll gain a complete picture of the chemical composition of geology on Europa,” said Bill Goode, a PHD candidate and member of the SUDA science team.

Engineers made sure to send a little bit of Colorado out into space by engraving an image of Ralphie, CU Boulder's mascot, on the SUDA instrument.

It's taken a team of engineers years of planning and building to complete SUDA. It will launch next year and arrive at Europa in 2030.

“It's a long road from proposal to delivery. And so, it's a very good feeling when it culminates. It's a physical instrument that we can deliver integrated on the spacecraft. And for me, personally, I'm very excited to see it leave a launchpad and actually see something that we've worked on leave the planet and go embark on its mission,” Goode said.