The European Space Agency launched its Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer Mission (Juice) spacecraft to the Jovian system on Friday, April 14th at 8:15 a.m. ET. The spacecraft lifted off atop an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The Juice mission was supposed to commence on Thursday, April 13, at 8:15 a.m. ET.
However, a lightning risk made ESA officials postpone the launch to Friday, April 14th, at 8:14 a.m. ET. What is the primary goal of this mission? How can you watch it live? Continue reading to find out.
How the spacecraft will commence with the Juice mission
The mission which was supposed to be launched on April 13 was postponed to April 14th because of Weather challenges. After the spacecraft was launched atop the Ariane 4 launcher, it commenced its mission to the Jovian system. The Juice spacecraft separated itself from the Ariane 5 rocket after flying for 28 minutes.
After the next 17 days, Juice spacecraft will safely deploy its solar arrays, antennas, and other powerful instruments that will safely navigate it toward Jupiter. ESA officials reveal that the deployment of instruments will take about three months of testing and preparation.
After which the instrument will begin to operate at its full capacity. JUICE will fly across space for the next eight years to arrive at the Jovian system. During this period, the spacecraft will conduct gravity assistance around Earth, the moon, and Venus to help it reach Jupiter and its moons within a specific time.
What is the primary goal of the Juice Spacecraft Mission in the Jovian System?
Immediately the spacecraft arrives at Jupiter in July 2031, it will spend about three and a half years flying around the gas giant. During this period, the spacecraft will also conduct flybys around three of Jupiter’s moons, including Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto. At the end of the mission, the Juice spacecraft will primarily focus on orbiting around Ganymede. This will make it the first space probe to ever orbit around a moon in the outer solar system.
Keep in mind that Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto are the only Galilean moons covered with ice around Jupiter. Astronomers reveal that they may also contain subsurface oceans which is a primary ingredient for life. NASA is also planning to launch its Europa Clipper mission in 2024 and it is expected to arrive in the Jovian system in April 2030. This powerful space probe is expected to conduct about 50 flybys around Europa, even reaching 16 miles (25 kilometers) over Europa.
Both NASA’s Europa Clipper and ESA’s Juice spacecrafts will conduct several flybys on the moons of Jupiter and unveil unknown mysteries of the icy worlds around Jupiter. The JUICE mission is traveling to the Jovian system with five major goals which include, using its sophisticated suite of 10 instruments to improve our knowledge about the three icy moons and figure out if they have oceans. The spacecraft will also discover if Ganymede is a potential candidate for life before the end of its mission.
Scientists hope to understand the depth of these oceans and also determine if they have salty or fresh water. Researchers are also eager to know how the subsurface ocean interacts with the icy shells of each moon. Since Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa have different surfaces, JUICE spacecraft will be making different unique observations on each moon.
Why Ganymede is a Perfect Candidate for Juice Mission
Ganymede is the largest moon within our solar system. It is so large that it is bigger than Pluto and Mercury in size. Scientists discover that the moon is the only celestial body that has a magnetic field similar to our home planet. ESA’s engineers designed Juice spacecraft with powerful instruments that can us to understand Ganymede’s gravity, composition, shape, rotation, and interior structure.
The spacecraft is also built to look through the icy crust of the moon using its radar. Juice is mandated to carry out a detailed analysis of Jupiter to help scientists understand how its complex magnetic and radiation environment around the gas giant shaped its moons and how Jupiter was formed as well. When scientists learn about how Jupiter was formed in the first place, they can easily understand more about Jupiter-like planets in other star systems.
How Juice Spacecraft Will Survive on the Jovian System
Jupiter has a magnetic field that is about 20 times stronger than the magnetic field of our planet. It also has a harsh radiation environment which impacts its moons as well as the magnetic field. Because of the harsh nature of the largest planet in the solar system, most of our electronics struggles to survive out there.
However, the Juice spacecraft is built with powerful components that can withstand the harsh environment of Jupiter and understand how it interacts with its moons, hot spots, auroras, waves of charged particles, and radio emissions. Juice is a truck-size spacecraft built to survive its eight years journey to the Jovian system. Its instruments are highly sophisticated enough to withstand the extreme nature of Jupiter’s environment.
The spacecraft is built with two cross-shaped solar arrays to power it. The truck-size space probe also has lead-lined vaults which will protect its most sensitive electronics from destruction. NASA and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) contributed to building protective instruments for the ESA’s JUICE mission. The engineers carefully modeled and tested the spacecraft to ensure that it can survive Jupiter’s radiation belts.
“A key achievement of this model for us was to show that what at first seemed to be a dangerous place was not completely out of reach,” said Christian Erd, Juice spacecraft and system manager, in a statement. “Around three and a half years at Jupiter will involve the equivalent radiation exposure of a telecommunications satellite in geostationary Earth orbit for 20 years — which we have plenty of experience in managing.”
The juice’s trajectory is meant to conduct 21 flybys across Callisto and two flybys across Europa to help it survive in the Jovian system. Since Europa is the closest moon to Jupiter, it orbits the gas giant within its radiation halo. Hence, the two orbits around Europa will make the spacecraft to encounter severe radiation exposure.
However, some of its instruments are highly protected, while other instruments will be exposed to the elements to investigate the atmospheres of Jupiter and some of its moons.
The Juice mission is going to the Jovian System to continue the hunt for life in the icy worlds of Jupiter. It will observe Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto in search of evidence of the building blocks of life, which include carbon, oxygen, iron, magnesium, and nitrogen. Juice’s multiple imagers and sensors will help in capturing fascinating data across different wavelengths of light and transmitting it to Earth.
It will take about 45 minutes to send a one-way signal to the spacecraft because of the distance between Earth and the Jovian system. What do you think about this fascinating space mission to explore the Jovian system?