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Moons of our Solar System
Moons of our Solar System

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1.4 JUICE and Europa Clipper

In this video, John Zarnecki discusses the advances in space instrumentation over the past few decades. Increased sensitivity, low size and low mass are key improvements.

The JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) mission is intended to be launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2023. If the launch is successful, the spacecraft will arrive in the neighbourhood of Jupiter in 2030 or 2031. It will initially focus on Europa and Callisto and finally it will orbit Ganymede for several months to obtain detailed images of the surface from an altitude of just 200 km.

Callisto, Europa and Ganymede are all suspected of having oceans below an icy surface, so ice-penetrating radar will be used, giving an indication of the character of the subsurface environment and whether liquid water really lies beneath. The scientific emphasis of the mission will be on trying to understand the habitability of each of these moons and the possibility of it hosting microbial life. Being so far away from the Sun is an irrelevance, given that tidal forces from Jupiter could provide the energy to melt the ice under the surface.

JUICE will contain a suite of instruments including optical cameras, spectrometers, sub-millimetre wave instruments, laser altimeters and radar. Countries from around Europe will supply different parts according to funding and expertise.

Work at the e2v centre for electronic imaging (CEI), based at the Open University campus in Milton Keynes is being done in preparation for the JANUS optical camera system. JANUS is designed to study global, regional and local morphology and processes on the moons and perform mapping of the clouds on Jupiter. The imaging detectors being used will need to withstand long-duration radiation damage from the space environment, particularly from charged particles concentrated by Jupiter’s magnetic field (which is one reason why JUICE will not spend any time close to Io, the innermost Galilean moon).

For more information on the work carried out at the centre for electronic imaging please follow this link [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

JUICE passed its ESA review and was approved for implementation in November 2014.

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In early 2014 NASA revived its interest in further exploration of Europa, as you can see at some of the links below, and in December 2015 Congress (in setting NASA’s future budget) directed that the Europa mission should include a lander. In fact NASA's next Europa mission, now officially named Europa Clipper will make about 45 close fly bys instead. It is due for launch in October 2024 for arrival in 2030. There is a large NASA website for Europa Clipper here.

See also: