Some awesome mission ideas are popping up all the time, each dealing with different solutions to the science and the costs. Sending orbiters through the volcanic plumes to landing a probe on the surface all seem on the table. The trick will be finding the funding and the will to do it. We need to build interest and excitement among our elected officials and the general population. Perhaps a mission of this scope can be a joint venture among the various space agencies, a partnership among America, Europe, Russia, China, India, etc; A partnership across international borders to find life across planetary borders.
The science is hard, the mission would be hard, and, frankly, so is the ultimate decision to fund and green-light the project given so many pressing needs and priorities facing our society today. The build-up would take some time, we have much to learn before we can get the most out of this kind of mission. Designing and constructing the actual probe is not an overnight process. But if we, as a people, get in gear, I can second the estimates of a mid-2020’s launch date. If my son, three years old this August, can eventually write his college thesis on our findings at Europa, I will be very pleased indeed. How we work out the project plan I will leave to the scientists. How we work out the budgeting, I’ll leave to the politicians and bureaucrats. As for why and that we should go is a matter for the people.
I would encourage everyone to learn about the search for life: What is life, what it takes to evolve, what it takes to detect it, and our best chances for success. A good place to start (and join) is with The Planetary Society.