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There are a few mission concepts under development to explore the surface (and subsurface) of Europa and Enceladus. This got me wondering - do the current (or soon to be obtained) surface maps of those bodies have a spatial resolution that is high enough to enable the development of lander & robotic missions to those destinations?

For instance, the upcoming Europa Clipper mission will map most of Europa at 100m/px, while I believe that the maps of Enceladus have a much lower resolution (although, high-resolution maps of specific areas are available).

I mean - sure, once these missions launch, they will likely carry a high-resolution orbital imager. But until then, I imagine mission planners will have to contend with limited mapping information, especially for missions involving surface mobility. Thanks!

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Do the current (or soon to be obtained) surface maps of those bodies have a spatial resolution that is high enough to enable the development of lander & robotic missions to those destinations?

Not at all. We don't even have high enough remote resolution to land on our Moon or on Mars.

Terrain relative navigation can get a vehicle most of the way there, but not all the way to landing. Landing with some landing legs on a meter tall rock and other landing legs in a meter deep crater is a potential recipe for tipover. What is needed is hazard avoidance. The final maps have to be developed in real time.

There's no way to remotely see those small but potentially disastrous problems with existing technology. What's needed is technology that can see and avoid those problem areas from up close. NASA used human eyes to avoid such problems in the Apollo program. NASA has replaced human eyes with automated technologies to enable landing on Mars and on asteroids. Hazard avoidance is nontrivial. There are lots and lots of papers on hazard avoidance at the final stage of landing.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good point! And that's just landing. Surface mobility (say, using a rover) will likely be another big challenge - i.e. making sure that the terrain obstacles are avoidable/traversable. Terrain will be hard to assess before landing in that case. Thanks for the reply! $\endgroup$
    – olamarre
    Oct 24 '21 at 18:50
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A previous Europa Multiple Flyby Mission is planned:

enter image description here

Source: https://europa.nasa.gov/system/downloadable_items/50_Europa_Lander_SDT_Report_2016.pdf

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