Science Goals and Mission Architecture of the Europa Lander Mission Concept

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
April 17, 2022
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Science Goals and Mission Architecture of the Europa Lander Mission Concept
An abbreviated version of the full Europa Lander science traceability matrix (STM), showing goals and objectives, and traceability to the model payload. Instruments in the model payload are indicated as follows: organic compositional analyzer (OCA), microscope for life detection (MLD), vibrational spectrometer (VS), context remote-sensing imager (CRSI), geophysical sounding system (GSS), and lander infrastructure sensors for science (LISS). The gray-colored LISS instruments are engineering systems on the powered descent vehicle that the SDT have identified as important for the science of the lander mission concept on the basis of their science-relevant measurements (e.g., spacecraft-descent imaging and LIDAR).

Europa is a premier target for advancing both planetary science and astrobiology, as well as for opening a new window into the burgeoning field of comparative oceanography.

The potentially habitable subsurface ocean of Europa may harbor life, and the globally young and comparatively thin ice shell of Europa may contain biosignatures that are readily accessible to a surface lander.

Europa’s icy shell also offers the opportunity to study tectonics and geologic cycles across a range of mechanisms and compositions. Here we detail the goals and mission architecture of the Europa Lander mission concept, as developed from 2015 through 2020. The science was developed by the 2016 Europa Lander Science Definition Team (SDT), and the mission architecture was developed by the preproject engineering team, in close collaboration with the SDT.

In 2017 and 2018, the mission concept passed its mission concept review and delta-mission concept review, respectively. Since that time, the preproject has been advancing the technologies, and developing the hardware and software, needed to retire risks associated with technology, science, cost, and schedule.

Full paper (open access)


SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.