The European Space Agency (ESA) recently announced a new mission to explore Jupiter’s moons Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.
The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) will study the moons, treating them as potential homes for life. Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto are all thought to have internal oceans where life could exist.
The JUICE explorer will also monitor Jupiter’s atmosphere and magnetosphere, and it’s interactions with the moons.
The mission will visit Callisto, fly by Europa twice, and enter orbit around Ganymede.
It will take the first measurements of the thickness of surface ice on Europa, and identify future landing and exploration sites.
In orbit around Ganymede, it will study the surface and internal ocean and structure of the moon.
As the only moon in the solar system that creates its only magnetic field, Ganymede is of particular interest, and JUICE will study the moons magnetic and plasma interactions with Jupiter.
“Jupiter is the archetype for the giant planets of the Solar System and for many giant planets being found around other stars,” says Prof. Alvaro Giménez Cañete, ESA’s Director of Science and Robotic Exploration.
“JUICE will give us better insight into how gas giants and their orbiting worlds form, and their potential for hosting life.”
This mission was selected from a number of other options being considered — the NGO, to hunt for gravitational waves, and ATHENA, an advanced telescope for high energy astrophysics.
“It was a difficult decision to choose one mission from three excellent candidates. All three would produce world-class science and put Europe at the forefront of space research,” says Prof. Giménez Cañete.
“JUICE is a necessary step for the future exploration of our outer Solar System.”
JUICE is set to launch in 2022, arriving in 2030, and spending at least three years in service.
Image Credits: NASA