Humans work to learn space science. Yet the universe also inspires our imagination. Well, NASA is combining both science and art in a new spacecraft. In 2024, Europa Clipper will fly to Jupiter to study one of its moons. The craft will carry a poem for the trip. And you can add your name to it too!
Europa Clipper is set to take off from Florida in October 2024. It will zip for 1.8 billion miles (2.6 billion km). The spacecraft should arrive at Jupiter by 2030. Then, it will fly around the gas giant planet — and get a closer look at the moon Europa. The craft will study the moon’s , its ice crust, and the ocean that’s likely below.
The goal isn’t just to learn about the of Europa. The main mission is to look for places under the surface that could support life! For example, one instrument will measure the chemistry of the underground ocean. That might show whether might be able to live there!
No one knows what we will discover. The excitement inspired Ada Limón. She is the U.S. poet laureate — the official poet of the United States. Limón wrote a poem about this mission. It’s called “In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa.” A microchip on Europa Clipper will carry her poem through space.
NASA is inviting anyone to join the ride. People can sign the poem online. Then, their names will go on the microchip with the poem! The sign-up site is go.nasa.gov/messageinabottle. And the deadline is December 31. A NASA leader named Nicola Fox called this “the perfect of science, art, and technology.” She added: “We are excited to share with the world the opportunity to be a part of Europa Clipper’s journey.”
So, what does Ada Limón say in her poem? Here it is, in her own words:
In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa
Arching under the night sky inky
with black expansiveness, we point
to the planets we know, we
pin quick wishes on stars. From earth,
we read the sky as if it is an unerring book
of the universe, expert and evident.
Still, there are mysteries below our sky:
the whale song, the songbird singing
its call in the bough of a wind-shaken tree.
We are creatures of constant awe,
curious at beauty, at leaf and blossom,
at grief and pleasure, sun and shadow.
And it is not darkness that unites us,
not the cold distance of space, but
the offering of water, each drop of rain,
each rivulet, each pulse, each vein.
O second moon, we, too, are made
of water, of vast and beckoning seas.
We, too, are made of wonders, of great
and ordinary loves, of small invisible worlds,
of a need to call out through the dark.
Updated June 14, 2023, 5:02 P.M. (ET) By Russell Kahn (Russ)