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.
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 stenciled 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.
Once all the names have been gathered, technicians in the Microdevices Laboratory at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California will use an electron beam to stencil them onto a dime-size silicon microchip. Each line of text is smaller than 1/1000th the width of a human hair (75 nanometers).
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.
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.
Painters, musicians, writers, and others have long been inspired by space. In ancient times, storytellers looked to the skies, found patterns, or constellations, and created tales about what they saw. Today, there are countless plays, books, songs and other creative works all about space. These works of art have helped inspire many NASA scientists and engineers to pursue their careers in space exploration. And now, their work is inspiring future poets, filmmakers, and artists. Maybe it will even inspire you! In this activity, you'll learn about different kinds of poems and find out how to create your own poetry inspired by space.
Are you an educator? Explore how to turn this into a lesson for students
NASA Space Place Coloring Page Activities
Does exploring Europa inspire you to think about the mysteries of our universe? NASA invites you to download a NASA Space Place coloring page sheet (friendly for K-5) and learn more about Europa and the moon’s unique surface textures!
Do you want to find more ways to get involved, like paper and toy brick models, or download resources like stickers, posters, and more?
Meet the Spacecraft
With its massive solar arrays and radar antennas, Europa Clipper will be the largest spacecraft NASA has ever developed for a planetary mission.
Europa Clipper’s intricate array of science instruments will work together to gather measurements of Europa’s internal ocean, map Europa’s surface composition and geology, and hunt for plumes of water that may be venting from the icy crust.
For more information, read the Message in a Bottle FAQs