Congress has been a lot more excited than NASA about a mission to explore Jupiter’s frozen moon Europa, giving the agency more funds than it has requested for a mission that will be much more ambitious than originally planned.
For Fiscal Year 2016, Congress appropriated $175 million for the Europa mission, far above the $30 million the space agency had requested. It also mandated that a lander be added to a spacecraft originally intended to orbit the planet.
And under Congressional mandate, the Europa mission must be launched by NASA’s heavy-lift and very expensive Space Launch System, whose main purpose is to send human missions beyond low Earth orbit.
All of this has NASA revising its plans as it strives to meet a July 2022 launch readiness date. The Government Accountability Office says meeting that date could be difficult $3 to $4 billion project despite its recent funding boost.