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NASA says it's setting aside $25 million for designing scientific instruments to address questions about the habitability of Europa, an ice-covered moon of Jupiter. Europa is thought to have a hidden ocean that could sustain life. The agency's announcement of opportunity calls for scientists to propose experiments for a Europa probe that could be launched in the 2020s. Next year, about 20 proposals will be chosen to receive shares of the $25 million for further study.

"The possibility of life on Europa is a motivating force for scientists and engineers around the world," John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said Tuesday in a news release. "This solicitation will select instruments which may provide a big leap in our search to answer the question: Are we alone in the universe?" NASA is looking into concepts for a $1 billion mission that would involve either orbiting Europa or making a series of flybys. One popular concept known as the Europa Clipper currently carries a higher price tag of $2 billion.

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