“On April 13 2023, the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) mission is scheduled to launch from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The ESA-led mission is packed with eleven science instruments for exploring the Jovian ice-covered moons, four of which have been partially developed here in Japan, and Japanese researchers are part of the science teams on a further two instruments.
Jupiter has three icy moons, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, whose surfaces appear to consist of a solid ice shell with a suspected deep liquid water ocean beneath. The presence of water makes the moons intriguing prospects for a possible habitable environment, albeit one extremely different from Earth. JUICE will examine the three moons themselves and the environment surrounding Jupiter to understand conditions that exist both in the moons’ surface and within their watery interior. A particular focus for JUICE is the middle of the three icy satellites, Ganymede. Unlike Europa or Callisto, Ganymede generates its own magnetic field which interacts with the engulfing magnetosphere emanating from Jupiter.
JUICE will make fly-by observations of Europa, Callisto and Ganymede, and then begin to orbit around Ganymede. The GALA instrument onboard JUICE is one that will be able to probe information about the ocean below the moon’s frozen surface.
The journey to Jupiter is a long one, and JUICE is not expected to arrive in the system until 2031. After arrival, the spacecraft plans to make multiple fly-bys of the moons before entering Ganymede’s orbit in 2034 and becoming the first mission to orbit an icy moon. In up-coming posts on Cosmos, we will take a look at several of the other instruments developed here in Japan for JUICE’s exploration!”