"The radiation is stopped in the upper 10′s of centimeters to a meter" of icy crust, said Pappalardo, who is principal investigator for the Europa Clipper concept.
But this radiation isn't all bad; the high-energy particles trapped in Jupiter's magnetosphere trigger chemical reactions in Europa's surface ice layers, producing nutrients. Previous studies have shown that there may be an icy equivalent to plate tectonics continually refreshing Europa's surface. Subduction zones may drag the collected nutrients below, supplying any hypothetical biosphere.
NEWS: Life-Bearing Lake Possible on Icy Jupiter Moon
Europa's life-giving potential is exciting - it has liquid water, a heat source and possible nutrient cycling - but the JPL scientists are keen to point out that the Europa Clipper concept will not be a life-hunting mission.
"The way we framed the Europa mission science objectives is not to specifically look for life, but to understand habitability; the ingredients for life," said Hand. To search for life, argues Hand, a surface mission would be required, a technological feat that is currently out of our scope.