* The European Space Agency (ESA) has sent a spacecraft to explore Jupiter and three of its largest and most intriguing moons.
* The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer mission, or Juice, launched Friday (14th April 2023) at 8:14 a.m. ET aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
* The spacecraft separated from the Ariane 5 rocket 28 minutes after launch, and ESA received a signal from Juice about an hour after liftoff, confirming that Earth-based mission control is able to “talk” to the vehicle.
* Over the course of the next 17 days, Juice will deploy its solar arrays, antennas and other instruments, followed by three months of testing and preparing the instruments.
* Juice will take eight years to reach Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. During its lengthy cruise, the spacecraft will utilize some gravitational slingshots as it flies by Earth, our moon and Venus to help with the journey.
* Once Juice arrives at Jupiter in July 2031, the spacecraft will spend about three and a half years orbiting the gas giant and conducting flybys of three of its moons: Ganymede, Callisto and Europa. Toward the end of the mission, Juice will focus solely on orbiting Ganymede, making it the first spacecraft ever to orbit a moon in the outer solar system.
* Ganymede, Callisto and Europa are ice-covered worlds that may contain subsurface oceans that are potentially habitable for life.
* Meanwhile, NASA’s Europa Clipper mission, launching in 2024, is expected to reach Jupiter in April 2030 and conduct nearly 50 flybys of Europa, eventually reaching just 16 miles (25 kilometers) above the moon’s surface.
* Together, the two missions could unlock some of the biggest mysteries about Jupiter and its moons...
Source : CNN