Experience the Jupiter Moon Lander Conquer Harsh Terrain on Europa (Video)

Europa is said to be one of the most intriguing locations in our solar system. This Jupiter moon is believed to have a hidden ocean with twice the volume of all Earth’s oceans combined. Consequently, Europa could potentially be one of the most promising prospects for discovering life within our cosmic neighborhood.

With this idea in mind, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California recently conducted tests on a landing system for a hypothetical future mission to Europa.

Landing on Europa, like on any rocky world, is expected to pose challenges. The uneven surface can make landing a spacecraft difficult and potentially damaging. Early Mars rovers were protected during landing by airbag systems that allowed them to bounce until they came to a stop. Later rovers utilized a “sky crane” system, gently lowering them to the Martian surface with a separate platform.

To test a suitable landing mechanism on Europa, engineers experimented with a sky crane that slowly lowered a spacecraft with four large legs, simulating the moon’s surface terrain.

In a sun-drenched Southern California location, the engineers purposefully landed the test craft on various items, such as large wooden blocks, rocks, and an exercise ball, to evaluate the effectiveness of their sky crane design under different conditions.

The lander is designed to halt its descent when the “belly” of the spacecraft touches any terrain, locking the legs and keeping the spacecraft level. If this area does not contact the terrain within a specific timeframe, the legs will automatically lock to suspend the lander safely above the ground.

NASA has plans to conduct multiple flybys of Europa with its Europa Clipper scheduled for launch on October 6, 2024. A proposed mission for a lander on the icy moon is highly anticipated.


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