A Message from Humankind

An animation representing U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón’s “In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa”, featuring Limón’s voice and handwriting. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Water connects Earth and Europa, the two ocean worlds NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft travels between on its journey. The existence of a vast ocean on a moon of Jupiter – which the Europa Clipper mission is equipped to decisively confirm and characterize – is what makes Europa such a promising place to better understand the astrobiological potential for habitable worlds beyond Earth.

Send Your Name to EuropaSend Your Name to Europa

NASA’s Message in a Bottle campaign invites people around the world to sign their names to a poem written by the U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón. The poem connects the two water worlds — Earth, yearning to reach out and understand what makes a world habitable, and Europa, waiting with secrets yet to be explored. The campaign is a special collaboration, uniting art and science, by NASA, the U.S. Poet Laureate, and the Library of Congress.

The poem is engraved on NASA’s robotic Europa Clipper spacecraft, along with participants' names that will be etched onto microchips mounted on the spacecraft. Together, the poem and names will travel 1.8 billion miles on Europa Clipper’s voyage to the Jupiter system. Europa Clipper is set to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in October 2024, and by 2030, it will be in orbit around Jupiter. Over several years, it will conduct dozens of flybys of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, gathering detailed measurements to determine if the moon has conditions suitable for life.

Illustration of the Clipper spacecraft vault plate
A tantalum metal vault plate on the Europa Clipper spacecraft will be engraved with “In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa” by U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón. This graphic illustrates the location of the vault plate, seen here as a golden triangle, on the Europa Clipper spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A Spacecraft Built by Human HandsA Spacecraft Built by Human Hands

Sensitive electronics for NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft are enclosed in an aluminum-zinc alloy vault to protect the electronics from Jupiter’s intense radiation belts. A tantalum metal plate seals an opening into the vault. The inward-facing side of the metal plate will be engraved with “In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa” by U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón in the poet's own handwriting.

Photo of Ada Limón at JPL
U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón is seen standing in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s High Bay 1 viewing gallery, overlooking the Europa Clipper spacecraft as it is assembled in the cleanroom. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Ada Limón and the Library of CongressAda Limón and the Library of Congress

As part of her laureateship, U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón wrote an original poem, “In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa,” dedicated to NASA’s Europa Clipper mission. On June 1, 2023, Limón debuted “In Praise of Mystery” to launch the NASA “Message in Bottle” campaign, which invites people around the world to sign their names to the poem.

Limón was appointed 24th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden in 2022 and reappointed for a second, two-year term in 2023. Limón was born in Sonoma, California, in 1976 and is of Mexican ancestry. She is the author of six poetry collections, including “The Hurting Kind,” shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize; “The Carrying,” winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry; and “Bright Dead Things,” a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Books Critics Circle Award. The recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and the Kentucky Foundation for Women, she lives in Lexington, Kentucky.

As the nation’s official poet, the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry. In recent years, laureates have initiated poetry projects that broaden the audiences for the art.

Learn more about the poem and Ada Limón

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