Ada Limón on crafting a NASA poem bound for Europa U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón has written a poem that will fly on NASA's Europa Clipper, which will explore one of Jupiter's moons. And you can add your name to the poem.

NASA is sending an Ada Limón poem to Jupiter's moon Europa — and maybe your name too?

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Next year, when NASA sends a spacecraft toward Jupiter, it'll have a special message engraved on it. The poem, "In Praise Of Mystery: A Poem For Europa," was written by U.S. poet laureate Ada Limon.

ADA LIMON: When NASA contacted me and asked me if I would write an original poem, I immediately got really excited and said yes. And then we hung up the call, and I thought, how am I going to do that?


Limon says it was a challenge to write something that will travel so far. The spacecraft will fly 1.8 billion miles to explore Jupiter's icy moon Europa.

LIMON: The way I finally entered the poem was to point back to the Earth.


LIMON: (Reading) There are mysteries below our sky - the whale song, the songbird singing its call in the bow of a wind-shaken tree.

LAURIE LESHIN: It's an ocean world. Europa is an ocean world like the Earth, right? Our ocean is teeming with life. The question is, are other ocean worlds also teeming with life?

MARTÍNEZ: Laurie Leshin heads NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab. That's where the Europa Clipper is being built. The spacecraft will fly by Europa about 50 times and transmit information back to Earth. Europa's oceans are believed to be encased under an ice crust, something that has fascinated Limon.

LIMON: It's not only that we need water to survive, but also that it runs through our veins. That, to me, was an immediate link that made the poem turn into a real human thing.


LIMON: (Reading) We too are made of water, of vast and beckoning seas.

We have to give in to wonder. We have to have wonder in order to survive.


LIMON: (Reading) ...Of small, invisible worlds, of a need to call out through the dark.

FADEL: The words of this poem will be engraved on the spacecraft in Limon's own handwriting.

LIMON: If you can imagine writing a birthday card and getting it wrong and having to throw it away because you didn't like the way your handwriting worked, imagine trying to write in your own handwriting something that is going to be engraved on the side of a spacecraft and not throw every, every version away. So, yeah, it was - I'm still overwhelmed by that.

FADEL: It took her 19 tries to get it just right.

MARTÍNEZ: It'll take about six years for the Europa Clipper mission to get into orbit around Jupiter. And NASA is inviting members of the public to add their names to the poem. Sign up before the end of the year and your name will be stenciled onto a microchip along with the poem that will ride on the spacecraft.

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