10 December 2004
A special study team has identified six potential candidate missions that could be done sooner, have shorter mission durations, and would be far less difficult to implement.
JIMO has been touted as the flagship mission for Project Prometheus. JIMO would be the space agency’s first mission using nuclear electric propulsion. In September, NASA selected Northrop Grumman Space Technology as the contractor for the proposed Prometheus JIMO spacecraft.
The Prometheus JIMO mission has been billed as part of an ambitious mission to orbit and explore three planet-sized moons -- Callisto, Ganymede and Europa -- of Jupiter. The moons may have vast oceans beneath their icy surfaces. A nuclear reactor would enable the mission.
JIMO would orbit each icy world to perform extensive investigations of their composition, history, and potential for sustaining life.
However, an analysis of alternative mission ideas was completed last month at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The six ideas are:
In addition to these missions, a Europa Orbiter mission for a 2012 launch, using chemical propulsion, would have the spacecraft energized by radioisotope power system (RPS) technology.
Further work on fleshing out these candidate ideas will be undertaken by the JPL-led study group, looking at variants and options for each mission.