This is Jupiter - by Ben Bova, published in 2000 as part of the 'Grand Tour' series. He is indeed well published with 100+ novels and stories to his name.
At this point in the series, the highly conservative New Morality religious group is in power; they have a solid control of Earth. The protagonist, Grant Archer, is sent to Jupiter for four years on what is essentially a public service placement out of university. He gradually gains a degree of trust with the director, Dr Wo, and joins the concealed mission to explore the Jovian atmosphere for the intelligent life that is believed (by the research team) to be there.
- The book describes a society on Earth that is based on a zealous
monotheistic religion. This stems a conflict in which, if life were
to be found on other planets, the principles on which the religion is
built would be questioned.
Studying other lifeforms is tolerated but not approved of:
"Yet we of the New Morality do not object to their work. Even though
many of these scientists are doing everything they can to try to
disprove the truth of Scripture, we allow them to continue their
The discovery of intelligent life however is expected to have more of an impact:
"Yes. That discovery will shake the foundations of everything."
- The main character's job is to uncover the identity of a saboteur.
It's not his primary role, but the existence of fanatics trying to stop the mission is a plot point:
There's a Zealot fanatic here on this station, Grant thought. At least
one. And I know who it is.
- He joins a team set to explore an ocean underneath the ice on a moon
orbiting a planet in the solar system (possibly Jupiter but I can't
remember the moon or the planet for sure).
The manned mission isn't well publicised beyond the station - an earlier attempt had failed, but they are planning a further attempt:
'The submersible that's being repaired for the deep
- Before moving down to the moon's surface the crew, along with the
protagonist, spend some time on an orbiting station to prepare for
The research station is 'Gold' in orbit around Jupiter:
Somewhere in a closer equatorial orbit around the planet was Research
Station Gold, Grant's destination...
- On the station the main character is implanted with what will be the
connectors to the ship. (The crew already had them, and that is how a
ship crew member is recognized)
They are called 'biochips', implanted in the legs and connected to the nervous system. The connectors are visible and identify the crew:
Her legs were already encased in the the studded leggings that told
Grant she'd been implanted with biochips.
Grant is appointed to the crew at a late stage, and requires the biochip implants as a result:
'Mr Archer,' said Dr Wo, 'you will assume Dr Pascal's place in the
crew. You will prepare yourself for the necessary surgery tomorrow.'
- The ship that will bring the crew to the satellite's surface was sort
of sentient or perhaps it has an advanced A.I. system.
The ship isn't intelligent in any way, but the biochip interface allows the crew to feel and directly control it; the experience is very intense for the crew members:
I am the ship! Grant thought. We are one. It's pure delight. Ecstasy!
It's like being a god.
- The orbiting station also conducts research, and someone is studying
As noted above, Gold is a research station. They have dolphins and Sheena the gorilla with communication developed with them:
Then he heard the clicks and whistles of the dolphins. The computer
screen printed: GREETINGS O'HARA
- The team boards a ship to land on the satellite. They are physically
connected to said ship in order to regulate their vital functions.
A set of hair-thin fibre-optic wires snaked out of the narrow
compartment [...] The end of each fiber was color-coded to match the
anodized color spots on the electrodes in Grant's legs.
- Underneath the ice they find some sort of underwater life formed by
several smaller organisms.
The Leviathans are an assembly of individual living parts:
Leviathan's members would involuntarily disassemble, shed their
cohesion, never to reunite again.
- One of these helps the ship escape the moon.
The ship was too deep to launch out of the atmosphere and too damaged to rise; the leviathan helped to lift them high enough to use the rocket system to escape Jupiter:
A guardian angel! A million-ton, ten-kilometer-long Jovian guardian
angel is carrying us up and out-