A European spacecraft is preparing to begin on a voyage that will cover 6.6 billion kilometers in order to investigate whether or not the moons of Jupiter that have oceans may host life.
In what would be the European Space Agency’s (ESA) most ambitious trip to deep space to date, a six-ton probe called Juice (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer) will be traveling towards the planet that takes up the most space in the solar system while carrying ten different scientific equipment.
UK researchers invented the magnetometer. This equipment will assist in providing insight into the formation of Jupiter’s frozen moons.
Juice will take us to a region of the solar system that we know relatively little about, to study Jupiter, our largest planet, and to investigate whether some of Jupiter’s icy moons are home to conditions that could support life. Dr. Caroline Harper, head of space science at the UK Space Agency, which has invested £9 million in the mission, said: “Juice will take us to a region of the solar system that we know relatively little about.”
Juice will launch on an Ariane 5 rocket from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, at 1.15pm UK time on April 13 and separate after 30 minutes.
The spacecraft will study Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto for at least three years after arriving eight years later.
The spacecraft’s launch window is limited.
Venus and Earth must be in the right place for Juice to employ gravitational aid to slingshot towards Jupiter.
Justin Byrne, Airbus’ head of science and the mission’s principal contractor, said Juice’s three-and-a-half tonnes of fuel are not enough to reach Jupiter directly.
“We must use Earth and Venus to travel to Jupiter,” he stated.
Gravitational assistance will reduce fuel utilization.
If the first window is missed, Mr. Byrne promised other chances in April and August.
Juice seeks life-supporting circumstances rather than life itself.
Europa may have twice as much liquid water as Earth’s seas under its ice crust.
Scientists are more interested in Ganymede, Jupiter’s biggest moon, which may have a salty ocean beneath its frozen surface.
Juice wants to examine this water and see if it’s livable.
Juice can tolerate strong radiation and temperatures from 250C around Venus to – 230C near Jupiter.
Two lead-lined vaults inside the spaceship safeguard sensitive electronics.
Imperial College London scientists developed the magnetometer J-MAG to measure the magnetic fields of Jupiter and Ganymede, the only moon known to produce its own magnetic field.
J-MAG will characterize Ganymede’s ocean depth and salt concentration.
“With our instrument’s observations, we are virtually peering into these universes,” stated Imperial College London’s Department of Physics head and J-MAG instrument main investigator Michele Dougherty.
Yet, detecting such little signals is challenging.
“It’s like trying to find dozens of needles in a haystack that are shifting form and color.
We expect great results.”
Europa Clipper will accompany Juice on its Jupiter moon exploration.
Juice and Europa Clipper may collaborate despite their differing aims.
If all goes well, Juice will reach Jupiter in July 2031 and have enough fuel to visit 35 frigid moons before circling Ganymede in December 2034.
The £14 billion mission will finish when Juice crashes on Ganymede.