Is there life near Jupiter? Europe will find it

The European Space Agency (ESA) is carrying out its most ambitious mission yet.

8 years: This is the duration of the flight booked by the European Space Agency (ESA) on April 13 at 2:15 pm Belgian time from French Guiana to Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system.

with its JUICE mission (Jupiter Ise Satellites Explorer), which will be launched with a European Ariane 5 rocket, the European Space Agency wants to investigate whether there is liquid water and therefore life near Jupiter.

5 billion kilometers thanks to gravity pendulums

The trip to Jupiter covers about 5 billion kilometers, but in order to make effective use of the propellant, JUICE has to make some detours. For example, the probe will pass Earth and Venus several times along the way, as it will always move in the right direction thanks to the gravitational pull of both planets and our Moon.

2029 will be the last time JUICE will circle Earth and finally reach Jupiter by mid-2031. There it will examine the planet’s gaseous atmosphere and magnetic environment.

JUICE will also examine three icy moons of Jupiter, Ganymede, Callisto and Europa, which are believed to have oceans of liquid water beneath their icy crusts, to determine if life exists in those oceans.

This is unimaginable. NASA discovered giant geysers in Europe 10 years ago. They were two columns of water vapor about 200 kilometers high. If water vapor is indeed involved, it could mean that water from Europa’s subterranean ocean could reach the surface relatively easily in some places.

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conditions of life

But other conditions are necessary for life. “If ocean waters were trapped between an upper and lower layer of ice, conditions for life would be difficult because nutrients would be absent,” says Günther Hasinger, ESA’s science director. So you need an ocean floor with silicates that can provide nutrients.

In late 2034, JUICE will be launched into orbit around Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system. To reach this orbit, JUICE will again use the gravity of a planet, specifically Jupiter, to orbit Ganymede.

At the end of the mission, in the year 2035 according to current planning, the probe will make a controlled crash into Ganymede.

Belgian input?

Belgian institutions are also involved in the ESA mission. The Institute of Aeronautics (BIRA) and the Royal Observatory of Belgium (ROB) contributed some instruments. They observe Jupiter’s atmosphere and tropospheric clouds and study the types of ice, organic matter, and minerals on the surfaces of Jupiter’s icy moons.

Aerospace company Antwerp Space provides the communications subsystem for JUICE.

King Philip will attend the launch. He will visit the Space Center at Kourou from 11-14 April, accompanied by the Secretary of State for Recovery and Strategic Investments, responsible for Science Policy, Thomas Dermin (PS).

NASA imitates Europe

NASA must have thought “what ESA can do, we can do too”. In October 2024, NASA will also launch a mission to Jupiter. The Europa Clipper will explore Jupiter’s moon Europa.

Note: a NASA probe will reach Jupiter early in the 2030s, so juice ahead. This is due in part to the more powerful launcher with which the Europa Clipper was launched. The European Space Agency says the juice needs more gravity pendulums on its way.

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If the launch does not take place on April 13 due to circumstances, there will be a new launch opportunity every day until at least the end of the month.

Some notable facts:

JUICE is the first spacecraft to orbit a moon other than Earth.

En route, usually in August 2024, the probe will make its first lunar and terrestrial gravity swing to conserve fuel.

– JUICE has about 85 square meters of solar panels, which is a record for a spacecraft. They must withstand strong radiation and temperatures between -230 and 110 degrees Celsius.

There are about 300 known objects in orbit around Jupiter. Of these objects, 79 have been identified as lunar.

The radiation in Jupiter’s magnetic field is 20,000 times stronger than Earth’s. So the electronics in JUICE must be well protected.

Winton Frazier

 "Amateur web lover. Incurable travel nerd. Beer evangelist. Thinker. Internet expert. Explorer. Gamer."

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