Unveils Design for Message to Jupiter’s Moon Europa : NASA

On one side of a commemorative plate attached to NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft, a U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón’s handwritten poem titled “In Praise of Mystery : A Poem for Europa.” is printed. This plate will also bear a silicon microchip inscribed with names submitted by the public.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech 

When the Europa Clipper spacecraft launches in October, it will carry a multifaceted message that incorporates over 2.6 million names submitted by the public.


In keeping with NASA’s longstanding tradition of sending inspirational messages into space, the agency has special plans for the Europa Clipper spacecraft, which is scheduled to launch toward Jupiter’s moon Europa later this year. Europa shows strong evidence of an ocean under its icy crust, containing more than twice the amount of water found in all of Earth’s oceans combined. A triangular metal plate affixed to the spacecraft will honor this connection to Earth in several ways.

At the heart of this artifact lies an engraving of U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón’s handwritten poem titled “In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa.” Additionally, a silicon microchip will bear the names of more than 2.6 million individuals submitted by the public. This microchip will serve as the centerpiece of an illustration depicting a bottle within the Jovian system—a nod to NASA’s “Message in a Bottle” campaign, which invited the public to send their names along with the spacecraft.

The ‘Golden Record’ 

It is intended for Europa is crafted from tantalum metal and measures approximately 7 by 11 inches (18 by 28 centimeters). This unique plate boasts graphic elements on both sides.

The outward-facing panel showcases art that symbolizes Earth’s connection to Europa. Linguists meticulously gathered recordings of the word “water” spoken in 103 languages, representing diverse language families worldwide. These audio files were then transformed into waveforms—visual representations of sound waves—and meticulously etched onto the plate. The resulting waveforms radiate outward from a central symbol, which signifies the American Sign Language sign for “water.”

On this side of the plate, which will seal an opening of the vault on NASA’s Europa Clipper, you’ll find intricate waveforms—visual representations of sound waves—formed by the word “water” in 103 languages. At the center of this art piece is a powerful symbol representing the American Sign Language sign for “water.”

To hear audio of the spoken languages and see the sign, go to: go.nasa.gov/MakeWaves.

Inspired by the Voyager spacecraft’s iconic Golden Record, which carries sounds and images to convey the richness and diversity of life on Earth, the layered message on Europa Clipper aims to ignite imagination and offer a unifying vision.

Lori Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, aptly describes the significance of Europa Clipper’s vault plate: “The content and design of Europa Clipper’s vault plate are swimming with meaning. The plate combines the best humanity has to offer across the universe—science, technology, education, art, and math. 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.”

In 2030, following a remarkable 1.6-billion-mile (2.6-billion-kilometer) journey, the Europa Clipper spacecraft will commence its orbit around Jupiter, conducting 49 close flybys of Europa. The spacecraft’s suite of powerful scientific instruments will collect crucial data about the moon’s subsurface ocean, icy crust, thin atmosphere, and space environment to determine if conditions exist that could support life. Safeguarded within a massive metal vault, the electronics for these instruments are shielded from Jupiter’s intense radiation. The commemorative plate will securely seal an opening in this protective vault.

On the inward-facing side of the plate, you’ll find intricate artwork that serves multiple purposes. Let’s break it down:

  1. Radio Frequencies and the “Water Hole”:
    • The artwork includes a reference to radio frequencies that are considered plausible for interstellar communication. These frequencies symbolize how humanity uses the radio band to listen for messages from the cosmos.
    • Specifically, these frequencies align with the radio waves emitted in space by the components of water. Astronomers refer to this frequency range as the “water hole.”
    • On the plate, these frequencies are depicted as radio emission lines, emphasizing their significance.
  2. Portrait of Ron Greeley:
    • The plate also features a portrait of Ron Greeley, one of the founders of planetary science.
    • Ron Greeley’s early efforts to develop a Europa mission two decades ago laid the foundation for the Europa Clipper mission we are embarking upon today.

In summary, this commemorative plate encapsulates humanity’s curiosity, scientific endeavors, and connection to both Earth and the cosmos. It’s a testament to our collective exploration and pursuit of knowledge.

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