JUICE’s mission to explore Jupiter’s ocean moons is about to begin

JUICE's mission to explore Jupiter's ocean moons is about to begin

An artist's impression of ESA's JUICE spacecraft on Jupiter

An artist’s impression of ESA’s JUICE spacecraft on Jupiter


The European House Company (ESA) is sending an orbiter to discover the unusual moons of Jupiter. The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) is scheduled to launch from Kourou, French Guiana, on April 13 and start its eight-year journey to Jupiter.

The orbiter was designed to discover Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, three of Jupiter’s largest moons. From 2031 to 2034, it can make two shut flybys of Europa and 12 shut flybys of Callisto within the first part of its mission, after which orbit Ganymede for the rest of its mission.

Whereas Ganymede could appear to be an uncommon selection – Jupiter’s smaller moon Europa is usually thought of to be extra prone to have the precise situations for all times – it is the biggest moon within the photo voltaic system, making it comparatively straightforward to achieve and orbit. Like Europa and Callisto, it’s thought to have a liquid ocean beneath its icy crust.

“Ganymede is much less attention-grabbing in precept than Europa, however as a result of it is a bigger moon, doubtlessly containing water and a magnetic discipline, Ganymede has lots of mysteries to unravel,” says ESA. Olivier Witasse, the mission’s mission scientist. “One of many massive questions is whether or not there may very well be any liveable situations round Jupiter, and Ganymede is a kind of locations.”

The probably liveable setting lies within the liquid ocean of Ganymede, regarded as the biggest within the photo voltaic system. However we all know little or no about him, so it’s unclear whether or not he can have the precise situations for all times. JUICE will measure the place, composition and depth of the water in hopes of discovering sufficient hope to warrant a future mission beneath the ice to search for indicators of actual life. “If you wish to search contained in the ocean, you might want to know the place the ocean is,” says Witasse.

JUICE’s ocean measurements can be assisted by Ganymede’s internally generated magnetic discipline, distinctive to any moon. Learning the magnetic discipline will even assist unravel Ganymede’s inner construction.

The mission will even goal to map all three moons and search for any indicators of geological exercise by inspecting the composition of their icy crusts. It’s going to use radar to penetrate the crust and measure the depths of the moon’s seas and, for the primary time, how deep underground they’re.

Partly as a result of the mission’s purpose is to grasp the Jupiter system as a complete and the potential for all times round related exoplanets, JUICE will even have a look at different moons from afar and make detailed observations of Jupiter. These observations will concentrate on the planet’s robust magnetic discipline and the way it impacts moons.

These measurements are anticipated to resolve quite a lot of mysteries about Jupiter and its moons – if all goes effectively throughout launch, the following step can be a protracted wait. “The following most enjoyable part can be in 2031, after we arrive at Jupiter and embark on the deliberate mission,” says Witasse. “We’re beginning to get a bit of excited, however that is nonetheless eight years later.”


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