Updated: May 7
On April 14th, 2023 European Space Agency launched Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer mission onboard Ariane 5 launch vehicle from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. Here’s everything you need to know about Mission.
Jupiter icy moons explorer mission or in short JUICE is made to study about Jupiter and it’s icy moon. It’s first ever mission to study about moons of planet other than that of our Earth’s moon. It will make detail observation of the giant gas planet and its three large ocean-bearing moons – Ganymede, Callisto and Europa. It will categories Jupiter’s moon system into two parts : planetary objects and possible habitats. The mission will consider two themes of ESA Cosmic vision 2015-2025 (planning cycle for ESA’s space science missions) : What are the conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life? and How does the Solar System work? Under these visions it will mainly explore about Jupiter’s Habitable zone ie, will study about oceans, icy shells, compositions, surfaces, environments and activity of Ganymede, Europa and Callisto and the Jupiter system which will include study on characterizing Jupiter’s atmosphere, magnetic environment, ring system and other satellites (including Io).
Other than ESA space agencies like NASA and JAXA has also contributed in this mission. NASA has contributed one instrument (UVS) and hardware for two European-provided instruments (RIME and PEP), while JAXA has contributed hardware for various European-provided instruments (SWI, PEP, GALA, RPWI).
Journey towards Jovian planet : Jupiter
JUICE will reach Jupiter after spending Eight years in solar system. In it’s journey before Jupiter, it will encounter many fly-bys including Venus, Earth and the Earth-Moon system. It will reach Jupiter in July 2031. It will first spend many month orbiting Jupiter and later will make fly-bys of Europa, Ganymede and Callisto and finally it will enter into Ganymede’s orbit. It’s epected lifetime is of 4 years.
Instruments and Experiments
JUICE is a 6,000 kilogram orbital which will carry 10 instruments onboard to study about Jupiter and it’s Moon system. Instruments like JANUS, MAJIS, UVS, SWI have spectral imaging capabilities from the ultraviolet to the sub-millimetre wavelengths. Instruments like GAnymede Laser Altimeter (GALA), Radar for Icy Moons Exploration (RIME) will explore moon’s surface and subsurface. Gravity & Geophysics of Jupiter and Galilean Moons (3GM) will study about Magnetic field of Jupiter and it’s moon system. Particle Environment Package (PEP) will study about Particle environment. J-MAG - a Magnetometer and Radio & Plasma Wave Investigation (RPWI) will study about electric and magnetic fields of Jupiter and it’s moon system.
Why Ganymede ?
Ganymede has a huge salty ocean beneath it’s icy shell but we dont know how deep it is or What is it composed of etc. So primary goal of JUICE is to explore Ganymede to figure out clearer picture of these worlds as potential habitats for life.
Ganymede is only moon in solar system to have it’s own Magnetic field and displays complex interactions with the space environment around Jupiter. It’s magnetic field form magnetic bubble (magnetosphere) which exist inside larger magnetosphere of Jupiter. This magnetic field interacts with the electromagnetic fields and hot plasma from sun and forms Aurora also.