Europa Narrow Slice of Surface

The First Akon Europa Penetrator Workshop

For general information on the Akon Europa Penetrator, click here.

Many thanks to those who participated in the successful First Akon Workshop at the Royal Astronomical Society, London, on January 21, 2016.

Activities to further develop the Akon Penetrator concept are continuing. We welcome contributions from all interested scientists and engineers. If you interested in joining the Akon Team, please email Geraint Jones, at g(dot)h(dot)jones@ucl.ac.uk.

The information below concerning the meeting that was held on January 21 2016 is being left online for information.


Jupiter's moon Europa is one of the most intriguing objects in our Solar System. This 2000km-wide body has a geologically young solid water ice crust that is believed to cover a global ocean of liquid water. The presence of this ocean, together with a source of heating through tidal forces, make Europa a conceivable location for extraterrestrial life. The science case for exploring all aspects of this icy world is compelling.

NASA has selected the Europa Mission (formerly Europa Clipper) to study Europa in detail in the 2020s through multiple flybys, and ESA's JUICE mission will perform two flybys of the body in the 2030s. The US agency has extended to the European Space Agency an invitation to provide a contribution to their mission. European scientists interested in Europa science and exploration are currently organizing themselves, in the framework of a coordinated Europa M5 Inititative to study concurrently the main options for this ESA contribution, from a simple addition of individual instruments to the NASA spacecraft, to a lander to investigate Europa's surface in situ.

A high speed lander - a penetrator -  is by far the most promising technology to achieve this latter option within the anticipated mass constraints, and studies of such a hard lander, many funded by ESA, are now at an advanced level. The penetrator would impact Europa's surface at several hundred metres per second, and travel up to several metres into the moon's subsurface.

ESA is expected to issue its fifth call for medium (M) class missions in 2016. Possible contributions to the NASA Europa Mission are to be submitted to ESA in response to this M5 call.

An international team to formally propose an Europa penetrator to ESA is growing. The working title of this proposal is Akon (Άκων), named after the highly accurate javelin gifted to Europa by Zeus in ancient Greek mythology.

Meeting Aims

This workshop is being convened to bring together all those interested in contributing to the Akon penetrator, both through scientific involvement and potentially as instrument providers, in preparation for an M5 proposal to ESA. The topics to be covered at the meeting are:

  • Current status of penetrator studies, future plans, and possible mission scenarios.
  • The science goals to be addressed by the Akon Europa Penetrator and its delivery vehicle, especially those that complement the planned observations of ESA's JUICE mission and NASA's Europa Mission.
  • Potential instrument contributions. Instrument concepts are to be considered to address a wide range of scientific topics, from Europa's tenuous atmosphere, surface and near-surface composition, through geophysics and geomorphology, to habitability and astrobiology.

There will be time allocated for open discussion of these three themes.

By the conclusion of the meeting, we hope to have outlined the primary mission goals, identified an initial list of potential instruments and their providers, with a very broad ranking that takes into account potential scientific return, mass and power budgets, and technology readiness levels that are achievable within a reasonable timescale.

The outcomes of this workshop and subsequent activities over the following 5 weeks will be presented to a subsequent Europa Initiative Workshop, to be held in Madrid, Spain, on February 29-March 1, where all potential European contributions to the NASA Europa Mission will be concurrently discussed. Details here.


Registration for the meeting is essential, but is free of charge. Please complete the form HERE. If you are unable to attend the meeting, or are unsure whether you can, please do also fill in the form so that your interest is noted.

The abstract submission deadline was 12:00 GMT on Wednesday, January 13, 2016. Sorry - no more presentations can now be included in the programme.


A downloadable programme including abstracts is available here.

Thursday, January 21, 2016, from 10:00 to 17:00 GMT

10:00 Welcome and Brief Overview of the NASA Europa Mission

10:10 A Europa Initiative for ESA's M5 call
Michel Blanc (IRAF, FR & ISSI, CH)

10:30 The Akon penetrator concept and how we got here
Geraint Jones (MSSL-University College London, UK)

10:55 Penetrator studies at Qinetiq
P. Church (Qinetiq, UK)

11:15 High landing accuracy penetrators for Europa
Konstantinos Konstantinidis (Bundeswehr University, DE)

11:35 Drilling, Sampling and Sample Handling Technologies to Support Europa In-situ Science
Francesco Rizzi (Finmeccanica, IT)

11:55 Ultra low payload with maximum sensors designs for Penetrator & Mini Lander
T. C. Ng (via Webex) (HK)

12:15 - 13:15 Lunch

13:15 A Low-Resource Magnetometer for the Akon Europa Penetrator

Adam Masters (Imperial College London, UK)

13:35 A miniaturised Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer for the Akon Penetrator delivery module
Ravindra Desai (MSSL-University College London, UK)

13:55 VISTA, a thermogravimeter to detect water ice, clathrate hydrates and organics
Andrea Longobardo (IAPS-INAF, IT)

14:15 Habitability Conditions Package for Akon Penetrator
Olga Prieto-Ballesteros, Javier Gomez-Elvira (CAB, ES)

14:35 Icy Moons Penetrator Science Package: A Proposal for the AKON Europa Penetrator
John Bridges, Mark Sims, John Holt (University of Leicester, UK)

14:55 - 15:15 Break

15:15 Penetrator Deployed Mass Spectrometers for surface and sub-surface volatile characterization
Simon Sheridan (Open University, UK)

15:35 A Silicon Seismic Package (SSP) for Akon
Tom Pike, Anisha Mukherjee and John McClean (Imperial College London, UK) Simon Calcutt (Oxford University, UK) Ian Standley (Kinemetrics Inc., USA)

15:50 Abiotic versus biological sources of highly oxidized organic compounds on planetary surfaces
David Fernández-Remolar (British Geological Survey, UK)

16:15-16:25 Brief Contributions (<5 minutes each)

Lessons learned deploying Penetrators in the Antarctic - David Jones (Coventry University, UK)

mg to g scale platforms for outer solar system missions - Michael Johnson (Imperial College London, UK)

16:25-17:00 Discussion & Next Steps

17:00 (sharp!) End

Unfortunately, no refreshments will be available at the venue, but there are several coffee shops and cafes very close by for lunch and our afternoon break.

Questions? Please email Geraint Jones, g dot h dot jones @ucl.ac.uk , replacing each dot.


The Royal Astronomical Society
Burlington House
United Kingdom

(Nearest Underground stations: Piccadilly Circus, Green Park)

A map showing the location of the RAS is available here:


Enter the Burlington House Quadrangle on the north side of Piccadilly (see map). Once in the small square, the Royal Astronomical Society is on the left. Ring the bell and explain why you're visiting. Please sign the visitors' book that is just inside the entrance. The meeting is being held in the ground-floor lecture theatre on the right hand side of the entrance corridor.

Page last modified on 05 feb 16 22:19