Sign a poem that’ll fly to Jupiter’s moon Europa!
In October 2024, NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft will begin its journey to Europa, an ocean moon of the planet Jupiter. And the spacecraft will be carrying what NASA is calling a Message in a Bottle. The message is a poem titled In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa by U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón. And … you can add your own name to the poem that’s flying to Jupiter’s moon.
The deadline for adding your name to the poem that’s traveling Europa is 11:59 p.m. EST on December 31, 2023.
A Poem for Europa
Here’s the poem:
In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa
By Ada Limón
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.
The Message in a Bottle campaign
In fact, the poem is dedicated to Jupiter’s moon Europa and to NASA’s Europa Clipper mission, a long-awaited mission to study this moon. And Europa is one of the most fascinating moons in our solar system. That’s because it appears to have a liquid water ocean below its icy surface. This subsurface ocean might be able to support living organisms. So Europa is an exciting target in the search for life elsewhere.
NASA likes to say that the Message in a Bottle campaign is a combination of art, science and technology. For example, the poem is inscribed on a tiny microchip that’ll be onboard Europa Clipper.
‘Message in a Bottle’ is the perfect convergence of science, art, and technology, and we are excited to share with the world the opportunity to be a part of Europa Clipper’s journey. I just love the thought that our names will be traveling across our solar system aboard the radiation-tolerant spacecraft that seeks to unlock the secrets of Jupiter’s frozen moon.
Laurie Leshin, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) added:
Inspiration is what fueled the people who developed this flagship mission and who hand-crafted the largest spacecraft NASA has sent to explore the solar system …
Inspiration is riding along with every single name that will be making the journey to Europa.
Jupiter’s moon Europa checklist
1. Create and download a customizable souvenir, an illustration of your name on a message in a bottle against a backdrop rendering of Europa and Jupiter (see image at the top of this article).
2. Help spread the word, use the hashtag #SendYourName on your favorite social media!
3. View the participation map to see how many other people have signed their name so far.
4. Hear Limón recite the poem in the animated video below:
Jupiter’s moon Europa mission
In fact, Europa Clipper is the first mission dedicated specifically to studying Europa. By the time it reaches the Jupiter system in 2030, it’ll have traveled 1.8 billion miles (2.6 billion km). In the end, it’ll make about 50 flybys of the moon, analyzing its surface, interior and thin atmosphere.
Even though the Europa Clipper isn’t designed to identify life itself, it’ll be better than any current tool we have to determine if conditions for life exist in Europa’s subsurface ocean.
And Europa Clipper will also look for plumes of water vapor on Europa, similar to those on Saturn’s moon Enceladus. As a matter of fact, astronomers have found tantalizing evidence for plumes on Europa in recent years. However, confirmation has been difficult. So if water vapor plumes exist on Europa, they’re likely smaller and more diffuse than those on Enceladus.
Still, if they exist, Europa Clipper will analyze the plumes, to see what’s in them. Certainly, they’ll look for signs of life.
Bottom line: NASA is sending a poem on a microchip to Jupiter’s moon Europa. The poem is titled In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa. It’ll travel aboard the Europa Clipper spacecraft, due to launch in 2024. And you can add your name!