The moons of Jupiter fascinate astronomers for several key reasons but the main one is the idea that some could be hosts of life.
In order to find answers to this and other urgent questions by astronomers, the European Space Agency plans to launch a new probe for Jupiter and its many moons, which has been named JUICE or JUpiter ICy moons Explorer.
What JUICE hopes to achieve beyond a truly incredible acronym?
Levon delve into the science.
The JUICE Spacecraft will travel from Earth to Jupiter equipped with ten scientific instruments to study Jupiter’s moons and planet itself.
The craft is an international endeavor in which the ESA gets help from the American NASA and Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to develop the ten scientific instruments of the spacecraft.
But the rest of the hardware for the project is constructed by ESA contractor Airbus Defence and Space from Germany.
The four Galilean moons Stocktrek Images / Stocktrek Images / Getty Images
Jupiter has 79 (or more) moons, some of which were discovered relatively recently.
But JUICE will concentrate on three major moons, known as Galilean lunar systems.
In the early 1600s, for their discoverer Ganymede, Callisto and Europa were also named for him (there’s also a fourth Galilean moon, Io).
The acronym hints at what these three moons have that makes them worthy of study – icy surfaces that could conceal vast depths beneath.
There are tantalizing hints of the Ganymede surface containing the “imperfect lumps,” an ocean interacting with rocks in Callisto and NASA that Europa is widely considered to be the “most promising place to look for life beyond Earth”.
Callisto viewed from the Galileo spacecraft
The traces of deep surface scars that the moon shows suggest a long history of impacts.
Each of these moons offers science its own mystery.
JUICE uses a to explore the icy depths of these moons.
These instruments are the products of international cooperation, with contributions from France, Italy, Germany, Japan, America, Sweden and others.
Here are four tools QUICK JUICE will have available:
The ESA expects to launch JUICE by 2022.
After that it is a long journey to Jupiter.
The ESA estimates that it will take JUICE 7,6 years to enter the Jovian system, hence an ETA 2029 at the earliest.
Once the ship is made there, it will start a three and a half-year mission between its four sites.
Approximately not the entire time.
NASA plans also a mission to investigate the Galilean moons, the, to complement JUICE
Although the Clipper is launching in 2024, NASA hopes that its Space Launch System will be able to make up some of the lag and let the two research systems study the moons for the same time period.