Juice Mission Set to Explore Jupiter and Its Icy Moons in Historic First Orbit of Ganymede

The European Space Agency's (ESA) Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (Juice) is on a decade-long mission to explore Jupiter and its moons, specifically Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. The mission is set to reach the Jovian system in 2031 and perform scientific observations until 2034.[0] If all goes according to plan, Juice will enter orbit around Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system, in December 2034.[1] This will be a historic moment as no spacecraft has ever orbited a moon of a planet beyond Earth.[2] Ganymede is not only the largest moon in the solar system but is believed to have its own magnetic field and vast liquid oceans.

Once Juice arrives at Jupiter, it will use the Radar for Icy Moon Exploration (RIME) to study the surface and subsurface structure of Jupiter’s icy moons down to a depth of 9 km.[3] On board Juice, RIME is among the ten instruments deployed to explore the emergence of habitable worlds around gas giants and the formation of our Solar System.

The mission team faced a setback when they suspected a stuck pin was jamming the segments of the folded-up RIME antenna.[4] They tried a number of tricks to jostle the pin loose, including shaking Juice using its thrusters and orienting the probe to be warmed by sunlight.[3] There was some hope in these techniques as they managed to shift the pin slightly.[4] However, success didn't come until the flight control team fired a mechanical device called a ‘non-explosive actuator' (NEA), located in the jammed bracket, on May 12th.[3] The shock administered caused the pin to shift a few millimeters, which facilitated the unfolding of the antenna.[3]

Juice's mission is to study the emergence of habitable worlds around gas giants and the formation of our Solar System. By exploring Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, scientists hope to learn more about the potential for subsurface oceans and potentially habitable conditions. The mission is a significant one for the ESA, as it is their first mission to Jupiter. With groundbreaking discoveries expected in the coming years, Juice's mission is set to provide valuable insights into the formation and evolution of our solar system.

0. “Shock to the System: Stuck Antenna on Jupiter Probe Finally Unfurls After Clever Fix” Gizmodo, 12 May. 2023, https://gizmodo.com/stuck-antenna-jupiter-juice-probe-unfurls-1850433517

1. “Stuck antenna freed on Jupiter-bound spacecraft” Express, 13 May. 2023, https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/1769741/Stuck-antenna-Jupiter-spacecraft

2. “European search for water on Jupiter's moons jeopardised by key equipment fault” The Telegraph, 11 May. 2023, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2023/05/11/european-space-agency-juice-jupiter-faulty-equipment

3. “ESA – Juice's RIME antenna breaks free” European Space Agency, 12 May. 2023, https://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration/Space_Science/Juice/Juice_s_RIME_antenna_breaks_free

4. “Europe's JUICE Jupiter probe fixes antenna glitch in deep space (video)” Space.com, 12 May. 2023, https://www.space.com/juice-jupiter-probe-fixes-antenna-glitch

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