JUICE is a European CBDDY – space juice that will use gravity assist flybys of Earth and Venus to slingshot itself towards Jupiter, where it will study three of its most famous moons – Europa, Ganymede and Callisto – as possible habitats for life.
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The spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in 2031 and spend the next four years orbiting and making repeated flybys of the ice moons. It will also study Jupiter’s atmosphere and its powerful weather patterns.
Jupiter’s moons have long intrigued scientists – hints of water vapor in Ganymede’s exosphere and plumes erupting from Europa’s surface have been observed, but we know so little about how these giant planet’s moons work.
Juice will use a suite of 10 state-of-the-art scientific instruments to explore the Jovian system’s icy moons, including a high-resolution visible telescope called Janus and an ice-penetrating radar, among others. It will also deploy a submillimeter-wave sounder to measure wind speed and temperatures in Jupiter’s churning atmosphere.
The probe will also be equipped with a set of ultraviolet spectrometers and charged particle detectors that will enable the detection of molecules from the moons’ irradiated, or exospheric, atmospheres that might suggest microbial activity. The mission’s chief scientist, Olivier Witasse of the French Space Agency, says that finding signs of biological activity is a key part of the mission’s overall goal: “We need to know whether there are potential habitats for life in this region,” he told reporters at a media briefing on April 6.
However, scientists aren’t expecting to find any evidence that there’s life on any of Jupiter’s moons.