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definition - Europa_Jupiter_System_Mission

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Europa Jupiter System Mission

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Artist concept of the Europa Jupiter System Mission: Jupiter Europa Orbiter (top) and Jupiter Ganymede Orbiter (bottom)

The Europa Jupiter System Mission (EJSM, ESA-working title: Laplace) is a proposed joint NASA/ESA unmanned space mission slated to launch around 2020 for the in-depth exploration of Jupiter's moons with a focus on Europa, Ganymede and Jupiter's magnetosphere. In February 2009 it was announced that NASA/ESA had given this mission priority ahead of the Titan Saturn System Mission (TSSM).[1][2] The ESA contribution still faces funding competition from two other missions, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) and the International X-ray Observatory (IXO). In 2013 ESA will choose only one of these three missions for further funding, which is why NASA keeps a contingency plan of sending its part of the mission as a stand-alone project.[3]

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) have expressed their interest in contributing, although no deals have been finalized. Like the TSSM, the EJSM (considering an orbiter-only scenario and without a participation by Japan or Russia) is estimated to cost $4.45 billion, of which NASA contributes $3.8 billion and ESA $650 million.


Mission architecture

A map showing all the nations which are either currently part of (red) or interested in becoming a part of (orange) the EJSM.

The most distinctive feature of the EJSM/Laplace-study, are its proposed two, possibly three, or even four separate orbiters/landers.

The baseline EJSM architecture consists of JEO and JGO, which are scheduled to be launched in 2020 and will execute an intricately choreographed exploration of the Jupiter System before settling into orbit around Europa and Ganymede, respectively. Both are to monitor dynamic phenomena such as Io’s volcanoes and Jupiter’s atmosphere, map the Jovian magnetosphere and its interactions with the Galilean satellites, and characterize water oceans beneath the ice shells of Europa and Ganymede. Should JAXA join the project, JMO will explore the Jovian magnetosphere in situ as a template for an astrophysical magnetised disk and affording the opportunity for “3-point” investigations of the Jupiter system via synergistic observations with JGO and JEO.


The objective is to determine whether the Jupiter system harbors habitable environments. The fundamental theme for EJSM can be further focused into science objectives relating to habitability (focusing on Europa and Ganymede). The main science objectives supporting this goal are:[4]

  • Characterize sub-surface oceans
  • Characterize the ice shells and any subsurface water
  • Characterize the deep internal structure for Ganymede and the intrinsic magnetic field
  • Compare the exospheres, plasma environments, and magnetospheric interactions.
  • Determine global surface compositions and chemistry
  • Understand the formation of surface features, including sites of recent or current activity, and identify and characterize candidate sites for future in situ exploration.

Possible addition of a Russian Europa lander

The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and the Russian Academy of Sciences are considering an independent Russian segment of the mission with the objective of delivering a lander to Europa. It would be separately launched by a Soyuz-class launcher relying on the ESA and/or NASA-orbiters to relay its data to Earth. A broad international involvement in the science payload and exploration tools of the descent module is envisaged. Depending on the available resources, a combination of a grinder on a robotic arm, or even a drill/thermal penetration system is envisaged in order to determine the characteristics of Europa's surface ice.[5][6][7]

NASA Research on Europa Drilling

Artist's concept of the cryobot and hydrobot

NASA is developing technology which aims to directly explore the ocean beneath Europa's ice. In 2002 a melt probe (cryobot) successfully undertook trials in Norway, and melted down into glacial lake 23m deep.[8] Once any Europa melt probe reaches water, an autonomous underwater vehicle (hydrobot) would be deployed to gather information and send it back to Earth.[9] Both the cryobot and the hydrobot would have to undergo some form of extreme sterilization to prevent detection of Earth organisms instead of native life and to prevent contamination of the subsurface ocean.[10] There is also the possibility of sending a television feed back to earth as new cameras and technology are being developed that can withstand radiation.[11] NASA's new prototype sub-marine designed for searching Europa's ocean's is called ENDURANCE and is currently undergoing testing in Lake Bonney, Antarctica.[12]


  1. ^ NASA and ESA Prioritize Outer Planet Missions
  2. ^ Rincon, Paul Jupiter in space agencies' sights, BBC News (2009-02-18)
  3. ^ OPF Study Team (2008-08-28). "Outer Planet Flagship Mission: Briefing to the OPAG Steering Committee" (PDF). Outer Planets Assessment Group. http://www.lpi.usra.edu/opag/sg_opf_8_08.pdf. Retrieved 2008-10-14. 
  4. ^ "Europa Jupiter System Mission (EJSM)". NASA. Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 2009. http://opfm.jpl.nasa.gov/europajupitersystemmissionejsm/. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  5. ^ "LAPLACE: A mission to Europa and the JupiterSystem for ESA’s Cosmic Vision Programme". ESA. http://users.ictp.it/~chelaf/LAPLACE.pdf. Retrieved 21 June 2009. 
  6. ^ Weiss, P. et al.. "A thermal drill head for the exploration of subsurface ice layers on Europa". Proceedings of the International workshop “Europa lander: science goals and experiments” Space Research Institute (IKI), Moscow, Russia. http://www.iki.rssi.ru/conf/2009elw/presentations/presentations_pdf/session7/wiess_young_ELW.pdf. 
  7. ^ Biele, J. et al.. "In-situ analysis of Europa ices by melting probes". Proceedings of the International workshop “Europa lander: science goals and experiments” Space Research Institute (IKI), Moscow, Russia. http://www.iki.rssi.ru/conf/2009elw/presentations/presentations_pdf/session7/biele_ELW.pdf. 
  8. ^ Knight, W.; Ice-melting robot passes Arctic test, NewScientist.com (14 January 2002)
  9. ^ Bridges, A.; Latest Galileo Data Further Suggest Europa Has Liquid Ocean, Space.com (10 January 2000)
  10. ^ National Academy of Sciences Space Studies Board, Preventing the Forward Contamination of Europa, National Academy Press, Washington (DC), June 29, 2000
  11. ^ http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20393494/
  12. ^ http://www.stoneaerospace.com/news-/news-antarctica09-Oct6.php

External links


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