The Jupiter probe before being transported to the launch site
The JUICE space probe in Toulouse is currently being prepared for transfer to the European Spaceport in Kourou. The probe is scheduled to be launched in April on the Ariane 5 launch vehicle, and upon its arrival in the Jovian system in July 2031, it will study the planet and in particular its icy moons from orbit around Jupiter and later around the moon Ganymede in particular.
The JUICE probe aims to explore the icy moons of Jupiter in particular.
picture: ESA/ATG medialab (probe); NASA/JPL/DLR (Jupiter, Moons) [Groansicht]
In April, one of the last Ariane 5 launch vehicles will lift off from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. JUpiter ICy Moons Explorer, or JUICE for short, will be on board. The target of ESA’s largest planetary mission to date is Jupiter, with its large icy moons Ganymede, Callisto and Europa. JUICE will be examining them up close from 2031. Underneath the moons’ icy crusts there may be oceans where life could exist.
But the first juice must be transported from Europe to South America. The empty, fuel-free spacecraft weighing 2,450 kilograms is currently with major industrial contractor Airbus Defense and Space in Toulouse, southern France, where it was presented to the media on January 20, 2023 before being packed for transport to Kourou. The transatlantic transfer will take place at the beginning of February on a cargo plane.
At Kourou, the probe is placed on the Ariane 5 ECA launch vehicle and covered by a protective covering known as a fairing. Full, the JUICE probe weighs five tons. The launch window for the eight-year journey to Jupiter opens in April. JUICE is the first L-class mission in the European Space Agency’s Cosmic Vision programme, with the “L” standing for “large”. This program aims to find out how the solar system “works”, how the planets originated and under what conditions could life arise that we know only on Earth to this day.
A major project is JUICE, with its large scientific payload, and the target Jupiter is large simply because the largest planet in the solar system is five times farther from the Sun than Earth, at 140,000 km, ten times its diameter and 318 times as massive. The mass of our home planet and a total of 79 moons revolve around it. Of these, the four largest – Ganymede, Callisto, Io and Europa – are of enormous scientific interest. They are also called the “Galilean moons” after their discoverer, Galileo Galilei (1564-1641).
Io, the deepest of the four, is being smashed so badly by the planet’s tidal forces that magma is constantly forming in the rocky mantle at temperatures in excess of a thousand degrees Celsius and the molten rock is carried to the surface by large volcanoes. Yellow sulfur Io is the most volcanically active object in the solar system. From the inside out, follow the three moons Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. With a diameter of 5262 km, Ganymede is the largest moon in the solar system. With a diameter of less than 4,000 km, Europa and Io are about the size of Earth’s moon. Callisto is the third largest moon in our planetary system with a diameter of 4,821 km.
It takes Europa twice as long to orbit Jupiter as Io and Ganymede four times. This means that these three moons always line up like a string of pearls. This creates resonance effects which, in combination with the strong gravity and tidal forces from Jupiter, also generate heat in the interiors of Europa and Ganymede. This means that there is enough heat under the icy shells of these moons, which are as cold as minus 160 degrees, to prevent water more than 700 million kilometers from the sun from freezing and to maintain deeper layers of water, the so-called subcrustal oceans.
In the case of Europe, the ocean under the ice sheet, which is only a few kilometers thick, could be more than 100 kilometers deep. This means that there is more water under Europe’s surface than all of the world’s oceans combined. There may also be an ocean in the interior of Callisto, as with Ganymede, magnetic field measurements have provided clear indications here. Ganymede, like Callisto, could have several layers of water, but then at greater depths.
Water is a basic requirement for the origin and evolution of life. Therefore, it is conceivable that, hidden from view of space cameras, life originated in the sub-crustal oceans of Jupiter’s icy moons. JUICE won’t find out, but in more detail about past NASA missions Voyager (two planes in 1979) and
Galileo (Orbiter, 1995-2003) It can distinguish icy moons, whether oceans really exist, how deep they are, how much water they contain and which minerals can be dissolved in the water.
One of JUICE’s tools intended to answer these and other questions is the JANUS Camera System. The main mission of JANUS is the photographic recording and mapping of landscapes in Ganymede and Europa. Also, the effects of tidal effects visible at the surface, which are responsible for the subcrustal oceans – tectonic phenomena such as faults and ridges or spectral changes caused by various minerals as a result of volcanic eruptions (ice) – should be recorded and explained. In addition to the high spatial resolution, the camera system has 13 spectral channels in visible light and near infrared. From a distance, Io will also be observed, as well as several smaller moons. JANUS was developed in Italy, Germany, Spain and Great Britain, and parts of the devices were built at the DLR Institute for Planetary Research.
Gala, that Ganymede laser altimeter, will measure the tidal deformation of Ganymede’s ice crust to provide evidence of the existence of a global inner ocean. In addition, a comprehensive map of the moon’s regional and local topography is generated from several million transit time measurements, which are combined to form a global elevation model for Ganymede. This makes it possible to understand the processes that formed the unique surface of this icy moon. In addition, the tidal distortion of the moon’s shape is determined from measurements at various times during Ganymede’s seven-day orbit around Jupiter.
From the deformation strength at different orbital points, the existence of an inner ocean can be demonstrated and the mechanical properties of the upper ice sheet can be determined. The experiment will also record measurements on Europa and Callisto. If one hopes for evidence of water just below the surface on Europa, it must be found on Callisto in the deeper layers. GALA was developed under the responsibility of DLR and built in collaboration with industrial partner HENSOLDT Optronics GmbH (Oberkochen) and research institutions from Germany, Japan, Switzerland and Spain. This is the first time such a device has been used in the outer solar system.
Another machine from Germany aboard JUICE is this one
Partial Wave Tool (SWI), which is the primary responsibility of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen. It will closely target gas giant Jupiter’s middle atmosphere, as well as the very thin atmosphere – or rather, the outer atmosphere – and the surfaces of the Galilean moons. The focus is on determining the temperature structure, dynamics, and composition of the different layers of Jupiter’s atmosphere, their interaction with each other, and the internal structure of Jupiter.
JUICE is ESA’s largest and largest mission to study the planets of the solar system. In addition to the European Space Agency, NASA and the Japanese space agency JAXA also contributed to the mission. The European Space Agency is responsible for financing the satellite platform, launching the Ariane 5 ECA rocket and operating the lander. JUICE’s science payloads are funded largely by the national space agencies and the participating institutes themselves.
JUICE will reach Jupiter in July 2031 and complete a total of 35 lunar flybys by November 2035. In September 2034, the probe will be directed into a later circular elliptical orbit around Ganymede. JUICE is the first mission to orbit another planet’s moon. By the end of the mission in September 2035, JUICE will have orbited Ganymede about 1,250 times. If there was still fuel, more circuits would be made at just 200 kilometers, enabling quality measurements that would set the standard for decades to come.
In the end, the lander was destined to crash on Ganymede, destroying it completely on the rock-solid ice. With the suspected ocean within Ganymede estimated to be a hundred kilometers deep and nighttime temperatures below minus 160 degrees Celsius, there is no risk of contamination of Ganymede’s ocean with terrestrial microbes considered “stowaways” on JUICE. With them.
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