Illustration of a four-legged spacecraft on surface of Europa.

Artist's concept of a proposed Europa lander spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Europa Lander is a concept for a potential future mission that would look for signs of life in the icy surface material of Jupiter's moon Europa.

Nation United States of America (USA)
Objective(s) Europa Landing
Spacecraft Europa Lander
Spacecraft Mass TBD
Mission Design and Management NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Launch Vehicle TBD
Launch Date and Time TBD
Launch Site TBD
Scientific Instruments TBD

In Depth

Europa is thought to contain a global ocean of salty liquid water beneath its frozen crust, and if life exists in that ocean, signs of its existence, called biosignatures, could potentially find their way to the surface, where a spacecraft could sample and study them.

Artist's concept of potential Europa Lander mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In order to investigate whether signs of life can be detected in Europa's surface material, a spacecraft would land on Europa and collect samples from about 4 inches (10 centimeters) beneath the surface. This is a depth at which the complex chemistry of materials from the ocean below would be protected from the damaging radiation that exists in space around Jupiter.

The samples would be analyzed by a miniature laboratory within the robotic lander, similar to the way samples on Mars have been studied by landers and rovers on the Red Planet. In addition to its onboard chemical analysis lab, a Europa Lander mission might also carry a microscope and a camera, along with a seismometer to detect geologic activity such as eruptions or the shifting of Europa's ice crust.

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