Europa Exploration (EurEx) Exponat is a project funded by the DLR (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt/German Aerospace Centre) in 2017-2019. It is about creating a demonstrator of an underwater exploration scenario on the icy moon Europa, which is one of the four Galilean moons orbiting the planet Jupiter. The Creative Services KG created a real 3D modell and the University of Bremen (Institute for Computer Graphics and Virtual Reality) developed a VR application to dive into that exploration. It's a gamified version of the exploration to present the goals and challenges of the EurEx mission, to make it tangible.

Real 3D Modell: glass box with icy moon surface

The demonstrator consists of a 3D modell and an HTC Vive VR setup. It is now located at the DLR School Lab (Köln). The terrarium has 3 glasses, a backplate with computer monitor, showing a 2D view from explorer's perspective, the icy moon surface incl. lander, the subwater surface, black smokers, the Ice Mowl and the explorer. Next to it is a racing driver seat with HTC Vive VR setup and arcade levers and buttons to control the VR environment. The virtual environment is a reconstructed 3D scan of the real subwater surface using photogrammetry. The borders are extended to suggerate a bigger areal. To stop the user to go beyond, pingers are located at the corners below the ice surface, a red grid fades in, and a flickering indicates, that the remote connection is about to lose.

The VR application starts with a small video. After that, the user has to use the arcade levers and buttons to explore the environment and to fulfull some tasks like collecting bio-luminessence, crystal, or gas probes or gathering data near black smokes. If the user needs to much time, the battery of the explorer runs low, and if he or she dives to deep in a black smoker the hull gets damaged. The mission is failed then and needs to be restarted.


Ice Mowl and Explorer

Ice Mowl after melting through ice surface and releasing pingers and explorer


One out of four pingers for self-localisation underneath ice surface


Underwater explorer, which is controlled by the user.

Explorer UI

Explorer UI: controls, subtask, compass, alarm, speed, altimeter, gradiometer, ...

Black Smoker

Black smoker


Deposits of natural gas


Deposits of crystals and bio-luminessence

Exist exploration area

Remote connection is about to loose


Start of the exploration scenario: Ice Mowl melts through the ice surface, releases pinger for self-localisation, and the explorer itself, waiting for it's return.