WASHINGTON — A NASA decision last month to replace an instrument on the Europa Clipper mission with a less expensive, but less capable, alternative is leaving scientists concerned about the ability of the mission to meet some of its objectives.
NASA announced March 5 that it would end development of a magnetometer called the Interior Characterization of Europa Using Magnetometry (ICEMAG) for the mission, citing cost growth and risk of further overruns. At the time of the decision, NASA said the cost of the instrument had grown to $45.6 million, three times its original estimate.
In its place, NASA will fly a “facility magnetometer” that will collect some of the same magnetic field data as ICEMAG in the vicinity of Europa, an icy moon of Jupiter. The agency subsequently said Margaret Kivelson, a planetary scientist at UCLA who also is the new chair of the Space Studies Board, will lead the development of the magnetometer.
The facility magnetometer will lack components known as scalar vector helium sensors, whose development problems led to ICEMAG’s cost overruns. Robert Pappalardo, project scientist for the mission, said in an April 23 presentation at an Outer Planets Assessment Group (OPAG) meeting here that challenges with ...