March 3, 2024

The much-anticipated JUICE Jupiter mission launches

Editor’s Note Due to bad weather, the launch of April 13 was postponed. However, a second launch will be attempted Web TV will broadcast the launch live.

Today, the European Space Agency will launch JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer) from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana at 10:15 p.m.

JUICE will target three water-rich planets, Jupiter’s moons Ganymede and Europa, to look for evidence of alien life on the surface and beneath it. These worlds are being targeted because they may be habitable to life as we know.

Jupiter’s moons

Jupiter is home to at least 92. Some of the largest Jovian Moons, such as the four Galilean Moons, formed with Jupiter in the early Solar System 4.5 billion years ago. This massive planet has attracted and captured many other moons, which have added to the collection.

The materials used to make these moons are extremely diverse, and it is believed that some of them could have been hospitable for life in the past.

Only two NASA missions have flown by Jupiter. The Galileo mission, launched between 1995 and 2003, and the Juno mission, established in 2011, are the only ones to have done so. The only two tasks to make dedicated moon passes are gathering information for future missions.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft laid the foundation for the Juice mission and the Europa Clipper. ESA CC-BY-SA

The world as we know It

Galilean Moons are particularly interesting. It is the second-smallest moon in our Solar System. It may not be habitable, but it has some of the most active volcanoes on Earth. ).

It is believed that Ganymede and Europa have liquid water beneath their icy surface and possibly even thin atmospheres.

Ganymede has a liquid iron core that also gives it a field. It is the only moon known to have one. Earth’s magnetic field shields us from solar radiation and protects the atmosphere from harsh solar winds. We associate these factors with the protection and promotion of life on Earth.

Sketch of magnetic field lines generated by the iron core in Ganymede. Hubble Space Telescope measurements suggest that the aurorae of Ganymede, which are influenced by magnetic field lines, may also be affected by a subsurface ocean. NASA, ESA and A. Feild(STScI).

When we search for life elsewhere (or for life that once existed), we look for the factors we consider important to life as we currently know it.

We are aiming for watery or icy planets since we know that life began on Earth in and around the ocean. Even better would be a rocky surface at warm temperatures. Jupiter is an absolute write-off. The crushing pressures and toxic gases, the freezing temperatures, and the lack of a stable, stable surface will never allow life to exist as we know. The big icy moons are protected by ice and have elements such as carbon and oxygen.

JUICE’s suite of instruments will be used to measure the thickness of the icy crusts on the moons, determine what’s in them, and search for liquid water beneath the surface. It will be looking for organic molecules on Europa.

An extremely efficient journey

JUICE, a solar-powered spacecraft, will need nearly eight years after its launch to reach Jupiter. The spacecraft uses minimal propulsion and instead relies on other planets to set its course.

These maneuvers are known as ” gravity assist“. JUICE will intentionally fly toward a planet and miss it to be pulled in by the gravity of that planet. Then, JUICE can “slingshot past” the other side. Although it may take some time, the process is highly efficient.

Juice’s initial gravity assist in 2020 will take it around Earth, our Moon and for the first time ever

What happens when JUICE meets Jupiter?

It will be the very first spacecraft that orbits a moon other than ours!

A spacecraft would normally orbit the planet, in this case Jupiter, and fly by the Moons as it loops by. JUICE’s three-year moon tour will begin with a flight by Callisto and Europa 35 times. It will meet NASA’s Europa Clipper Mission briefly around Europa. This mission complements this one nicely.

In 2034, JUICE’s orbit will change from Jupiter around Ganymede. It will have an excellent view and almost a full year to explore this fascinating moon and its surface, atmospheric, and internal systems.

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