Washington: NASA will start a mission to Jupiter's moon Europa in the hope of finding signs of life on the frozen planet.
The agency is reportedly encouraged by the blasts of water vapour in the moon's polar region.
The research team thinks this could be a way to sample the liquid water, which is normally inaccessible through the thick layer of ice covering the moon, Inquisitr reported.
"Europa is clearly such a prime target for astrobiology that having a workshop like this to try and figure out all the ways in which we could possibly sample its oceana [is] critically important," Kevin Hand, an astrobiologist at California's Jet Propulsion Laboratory was quoted as saying.
The project has got $30 million approved from the White House for the first phase, part of a $18.5-billion request that is still awaiting Congressional approval.
The total cost of the Europa mission, from start to finish, would be more than $2 billion.
NASA has a rough plan for the mission, sending a vessel that would travel to Jupiter's orbit and make 45 flybys of Europa over 3.5 years.
In addition to collecting water samples, the mission would also measure and map the icy shell covering the surface, which could lay the groundwork for a future mission to Europa.