The European Space Agency's (ESA) Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) mission has officially set off on its historic journey to Jupiter and its oceanic moons.
A Groundbreaking Voyage to Explore the Gas Giant’s Complex Environment
The Long-Awaited Launch of JUICE
ESA’s JUICE mission finally embarked on its journey to Jupiter on April 14 from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Despite a 24-hour delay due to poor weather, the van-sized spacecraft took to the skies aboard an Ariane 5 rocket at 12:14 UTC.
The Ascent: A Step-by-Step Liftoff
Within two minutes of flight, the rocket’s side boosters detached, followed by the spacecraft’s protective bonnet a minute later. At the eight-minute mark, the rocket’s main stage separated, and the third stage propelled JUICE into its transfer orbit.
Solar Panel Deployment and Ground Control Communication
After entering its transfer orbit, the spacecraft deployed its solar panels and established contact with ground control. JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer) is set to embark on an eight-year voyage to study Jupiter and its three large oceanic moons (Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa. The JUICE mission goal is to study these celestial bodies using a variety of remote sensing, geophysical, and in situ instruments.
A Quest for Habitats on Icy Moons
Additionally, the JUICE mission goal is to investigate these moons, which harbor oceans beneath their icy crusts, as potential habitats for life. JUICE will also delve into Jupiter’s intricate environment and examine the broader Jupiter system as a model for gas giants throughout the universe.
Groundbreaking Firsts for the JUICE Mission
JUICE boasts several firsts in the solar system. The mission will mark the first time a probe orbits a moon other than Earth’s, specifically Jupiter’s largest satellite, Ganymede. During its journey, JUICE will perform an Earth-Moon gravity assist maneuver to conserve fuel, a first for ESA. Additionally, the mission represents the last ESA mission to launch aboard an Ariane 5 from Kourou, before the Ariane 6 takes over at the European Spaceport.
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