IGPP Seminar Series

Exploring the Habitability of Icy Worlds: The Europa Jupiter System Mission

by Robert Pappalardo


NASA and ESA have recently selected the Europa Jupiter System Mission (EJSM) as the next Flagship mission to the out solar system. The mission concept consists of a NASA-led Jupiter Europa Orbiter (JEO) and an ESA-led Jupiter Ganymede Orbiter (JGO), which would execute a choreographed exploration of the Jupiter System before settling into orbit around Europa and Ganymede, respectively. The mission’s overall theme is: “The emergence of habitable worlds around gas giants.” The EJSM mission architecture provides opportunities for coordinated synergistic observations from both JEO and JGO. The NASA element would focus on Europa with the goal: “Explore Europa to investigate its habitability.” During its Europa orbital phase, JEO addresses the objectives of characterizing Europa’s ocean and its deeper interior through geophysical methods: using gravity, altimetry, and magnetometry measurements conducted from low-altitude orbit. To characterize Europa’s ice shell and any subsurface water, JEO employs ice-penetrating radar, which can map the distribution of water within and potentially beneath the ice shell. The tenuous atmosphere of Europa and its magnetospheric interactions will be investigated through magnetometry, energetic particle and plasma measurements, and UV spectroscopy including stellar occultations. Surface composition and chemistry will be characterized by remote sensing through IR spectroscopy, and in situ through ion and neutral mass spectroscopy. Surface geology and potential future landing sites will be characterized through imaging at a variety of scales (100, 10, and 1 m/pixel, from 100 km orbital altitude) and through thermal imaging that could locate active hot spots. While the primary focus of JEO is to orbit Europa, the science return encompasses the entire Jovian system, especially as is relevant to the potential habitability of Europa. JEO includes flybys of all four Galilean satellites, along with ~ 2.5 years observing Jupiter’s atmosphere, magnetosphere, and rings. EJSM will shed new light on the potential habitability of icy worlds in our solar system and beyond.
Tuesday, 31 March 2009
3853 Slichter Hall
Refreshments at 3:45 PM
Lecture at 4:00 PM