Earth, Moon, and Planets

, Volume 120, Issue 2, pp 113–146 | Cite as

An Impacting Descent Probe for Europa and the Other Galilean Moons of Jupiter

  • P. Wurz
  • D. Lasi
  • N. Thomas
  • D. Piazza
  • A. Galli
  • M. Jutzi
  • S. Barabash
  • M. Wieser
  • W. Magnes
  • H. Lammer
  • U. Auster
  • L. I. Gurvits
  • W. Hajdas


We present a study of an impacting descent probe that increases the science return of spacecraft orbiting or passing an atmosphere-less planetary bodies of the solar system, such as the Galilean moons of Jupiter. The descent probe is a carry-on small spacecraft (<100 kg), to be deployed by the mother spacecraft, that brings itself onto a collisional trajectory with the targeted planetary body in a simple manner. A possible science payload includes instruments for surface imaging, characterisation of the neutral exosphere, and magnetic field and plasma measurement near the target body down to very low-altitudes (~1 km), during the probe’s fast (~km/s) descent to the surface until impact. The science goals and the concept of operation are discussed with particular reference to Europa, including options for flying through water plumes and after-impact retrieval of very-low altitude science data. All in all, it is demonstrated how the descent probe has the potential to provide a high science return to a mission at a low extra level of complexity, engineering effort, and risk. This study builds upon earlier studies for a Callisto Descent Probe for the former Europa-Jupiter System Mission of ESA and NASA, and extends them with a detailed assessment of a descent probe designed to be an additional science payload for the NASA Europa Mission.


Descent probe Impactor Europa Habitability Plumes Jupiter Galilean moons Mission Radiation Mass spectrometer Magnetometer Ion sensor Wide-angle camera Radiation monitor 



Funding was provided by Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Förderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Physikalisches InstitutUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.Swedish Institute of Space PhysicsKirunaSweden
  3. 3.Space Research InstituteAustrian Academy of SciencesGrazAustria
  4. 4.Institut f. Geophysik u. Extraterrestrische PhysikTechnische UniversitätBrunswickGermany
  5. 5.Joint Institute for VLBI ERICDwingelooThe Netherlands
  6. 6.Department of Astrodynamics and Space MissionsDelft University of TechnologyDelftThe Netherlands
  7. 7.Paul Scherrer InstituteVilligenSwitzerland

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