The JUpiter ICy Moons Explorer (Juice) mission, which aims to find signs of life on Jupiter’s three largest moons, is set to launch from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana. The spacecraft will embark on an eight-year-long voyage to Jupiter, scheduled to lift off at 13:15 BST (5:45 pm IST) on an Ariane-5 rocket, the most powerful rocket in Europe.
Juice will begin its journey in the vacuum of space after separating from the rocket almost 30 minutes after launch. The spacecraft will complete fly-bys of Venus, Earth, and the Earth-Moon system during its voyage, with the objective of exploring the moons for habitability and the possibility of living around giants.
The mission’s overarching theme is the emergence of habitable worlds around gas giants. The spacecraft will observe Jupiter and its three largest moons, Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede. Ganymede’s buried oceans could tell us whether life can arise in different environments across the cosmos.
Juice has been equipped with 10 solar panels that will be deployed as two distinctive cross-shaped arrays, providing a total area of about 85 square meters. The spacecraft has state-of-the-art instruments, comprising the most powerful remote sensing, geophysical, and in situ payload complement ever flown to the outer Solar System.
Juice has a remote sensing package that includes imaging and spectral imaging capabilities, a geophysical package that comprises a laser altimeter (GALA), and a radar sounder (RIME) for exploring the moon’s surface and subsurface. The in situ package contains a powerful suite of instruments to study the particle environment (PEP), a magnetometer (J-MAG), and a radio and plasma wave instrument (RPWI).
The spacecraft will characterise the oceans, icy shells, compositions, surfaces, environments, and activity of Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto, as well as the wider Jupiter system, characterising Jupiter’s atmosphere, magnetic environment, ring system, and other satellites.
After arriving in the Jovian system, the spacecraft will orbit Jupiter for several months, completing fly-bys of Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, and finally conducting an orbital tour of Ganymede. Juice has a 2.5-meter-long High Gain Antenna to communicate with Earth.
The mission’s success will shed more light on what Jupiter’s ocean worlds are like, why Ganymede is unique, and whether there could be, or ever have been, life in the Jupiter system.
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