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Proceedings Paper

The Europa Ocean Discovery mission
Author(s): Bradley C. Edwards; Christopher F. Chyba; James B. Abshire; Joseph A. Burns; Paul Geissler; Alex S. Konopliv; Michael C. Malin; Steven J. Ostro; Charley Rhodes; Chuck Rudiger; Xuan-Min Shao; David E. Smith; Steven W. Squyres; Peter C. Thomas; Chauncey W. Uphoff; Gerald D. Walberg; Charles L. Werner; Charles F. Yoder; Maria T. Zuber
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Paper Abstract

Ever since the first proposal that tidal heating of Europa by Jupiter might lead to liquid water oceans below Europa's ice cover, scientists have speculated over the exobiological implications of such an ocean. Liquid water is thought to be an essential ingredient for life, so the existence of a second water ocean in the Solar System would be of paramount importance in any search for life beyond Earth. We present here a Discovery-class mission concept (Europa Ocean Discovery) to determine the existence of a liquid water ocean on Europa and to characterize Europa's surface structure. The technical goal of the Europa Ocean Discovery mission is to study Europa with an orbiting spacecraft. This goal is challenging but entirely feasible within the Discovery envelope. There are four key challenges: entering Europan orbit, generating power, surviving long enough in the radiation environment to return valuable science, and completing the mission within the Discovery program's constraints on launch vehicle (Delta II or smaller) and budget (approximately $DOL250M plus launch). Europa Ocean Discovery will carry four scientific instruments to study Europa: (1) an ice-penetrating radar sounder to probe tens of kilometers below Europa's surface; (2) a laser altimeter, to determine the height and phase of Europa's time-varying tidal bulge; (3) an X-band transponder to determine Europa's gravity field; and (4) a solid-state optical imager. These instruments will provide important information about Europa's surface, subsurface, and will provide definitive evidence about the existence of a Europan ocean.

Paper Details

Date Published: 11 July 1997
PDF: 13 pages
Proc. SPIE 3111, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for the Investigation of Extraterrestrial Microorganisms, (11 July 1997); doi: 10.1117/12.278778
Show Author Affiliations
Bradley C. Edwards, Los Alamos National Lab. (United States)
Christopher F. Chyba, Univ. of Arizona (United States)
James B. Abshire, NASA Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
Joseph A. Burns, Cornell Univ. (United States)
Paul Geissler, Univ. of Arizona (United States)
Alex S. Konopliv, Jet Propulsion Lab (United States)
Michael C. Malin, Malin Space Science Systems (United States)
Steven J. Ostro, Jet Propulsion Lab. (United States)
Charley Rhodes, Los Alamos National Lab. (United States)
Chuck Rudiger, Lockheed Martin Corp. (United States)
Xuan-Min Shao, Los Alamos National Lab. (United States)
David E. Smith, NASA Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
Steven W. Squyres, Cornell Univ. (United States)
Peter C. Thomas, Cornell Univ. (United States)
Chauncey W. Uphoff, ACTA Consulting Group (United States)
Gerald D. Walberg, North Carolina State Univ. (United States)
Charles L. Werner, Jet Propulsion Lab. (United States)
Charles F. Yoder, Jet Propulsion Lab. (United States)
Maria T. Zuber, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 3111:
Instruments, Methods, and Missions for the Investigation of Extraterrestrial Microorganisms
Richard B. Hoover, Editor(s)

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