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A mandate to fly NASA’s mission to Europa on a delayed rocket could cost an extra $1 billion

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NASA’s inspector general is urging Congress to reconsider a mandate specifying which rocket the space agency’s upcoming mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa must fly on. Right now, NASA is legally obligated to fly the mission on the next big rocket that the space agency is developing, known as the Space Launch System or SLS. But that vehicle is years away from being ready, and the inspector general argues that changing the rocket to another one that’s already in operation could save taxpayers up to $1 billion.

NASA’s mission to Europa is currently slated for launch in 2023, and it’ll aim to get the closest view yet of the Jovian moon. The project will send a robotic spacecraft to fly close by the icy moon multiple times to get a better understanding of what might be underneath the world’s surface. A saltwater ocean is thought to lurk under Europa’s crust, and scientists have long been wondering if any type of life might be living in there.

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