In just a few short weeks, the European Space Agency (ESA) will embark on an exciting and ambitious journey to the outer reaches of our Solar System with the launch of the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (Juice). Scheduled to take place between April 5 and April 25, this will be the first dedicated robotic mission to Jupiter by Europe, and it promises to be a ground breaking and historic event.
After its launch, Juice will embark on an incredible journey through the Solar System, with a planned arrival at Jupiter in July 2031. During its voyage, the spacecraft will perform a series of flybys of the three large icy moons of Jupiter – Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto – before ultimately entering into orbit around Ganymede, the largest moon in the Solar System. This will mark the first time a spacecraft has ever reached orbit around the moon of another planet, making it a truly groundbreaking achievement.
The primary focus of Juice’s mission is the exploration of the icy moons of Jupiter, which are all believed to host oceans of liquid water beneath their frozen surfaces. Europa, in particular, is regarded as one of the most likely places in the Solar System to find evidence of extra-terrestrial life, making it a key target for scientific study. To this end, Juice will be equipped with ten scientific instruments, including ice-penetrating radar, which will allow scientists to study the internal oceans of these moons in unprecedented detail.
The use of ice-penetrating radar on Juice’s mission represents a practical first step in mapping the sub-surface oceans of these moons, paving the way for more exotic future missions involving submersible vehicles. In fact, several concepts for such vehicles have already been put forward, with the goal of exploring these oceans in even greater depth. By studying the internal oceans of these moons, scientists hope to gain a better understanding of the conditions that might be necessary for the development of life, and potentially even discover evidence of extra-terrestrial life forms.
The upcoming launch of Juice represents a major milestone for the ESA and for the scientific community as a whole. With its ambitious mission to explore the icy moons of Jupiter and study their internal oceans, Juice promises to provide us with valuable insights into the conditions necessary for the development of life, and may even lead to the discovery of extra-terrestrial life forms. The launch window for Juice runs from April 5 to April 25, and we can’t wait to see what this exciting mission has in store for us.