Testing a Landing Gear for Potential Future Landing on Europa
Engineers test the mechanical landing system for the proposed Europa Lander project at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Sept. 15, 2022. This test, using the Europa Lander landing gear testbed, fully exercises the Europa Lander landing gear mechanism through a simulated dynamic landing.
Europa Lander is a concept for a potential future mission that would look for signs of life in the icy surface material of Jupiter's moon Europa. The moon is thought to contain a global ocean of salty water beneath its frozen crust. If life exists in that ocean, signs of its existence called biosignatures could potentially find their way to the surface. In this mission concept, a spacecraft would land on Europa and collect and study samples from about 4 inches (10 centimeters) beneath the surface, looking for signs of life.
The Europa Lander landing gear testbed was developed to test and inform the design of the landing gear for the spacecraft: It mimics the landing loads and ground interaction forces that a single flight landing gear would experience when touching down on the Europan surface. It does this by using gravity offloading to simulate the reduced gravity on Europa, and by replicating the mass and inertial properties of a flight lander as well as all the degrees of freedom that the landing gear would experience.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California managed the landing technology development of the proposed Europa Lander mission.