The European Space Agency’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer mission, or JUICE, is due to launch in just a few months, so the spacecraft is now being packed at its test site in Toulouse, France, for transfer to the launch site in French Guiana.
The spacecraft recently went through its final round of testing, including a thermal vacuum test to ensure it can handle the cold temperatures of space, and a system validation test in which steps immediately after launch, such as deploying the booms and arrays that will occur in space, are simulated.
The goal of the mission is to study three of Jupiter’s largest moons, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, each of which is believed to have liquid water oceans beneath icy crusts.
The presence of liquid water makes each of these moons a potential target in the search for life beyond Earth, so JUICE will study each one using cameras and spectrometers, Digitartlends reported.
It will also learn about Jupiter’s local environment, such as its magnetosphere and plasma environment.
The spacecraft will go on a long journey, first traveling to Jupiter for eight years before entering orbit around Ganymede.
This will be the first time a spacecraft has orbited a moon other than Earth.
The mission will perform a complex series of flybys of planets in the inner solar system to get them on their way, then may also flyby an asteroid before reaching the Jovian system and perform another series of flybys to allow it to get close to the moons.
“This is the largest deep space mission we’ve ever launched, and it needs to gracefully circle the moons of the largest planet in the solar system using no fewer than 35 flybys,” said Andrea Acomazo, director of flight operations for the mission. in the current situation. “JUICE’s exploration of Jupiter and its moons will require us to perform a decade of operations that we’ve never done before, and a lot could go wrong. In these weeks of simulations we’ll run into every possible problem, so we can handle any situation in space.”
The mission is scheduled to launch in April this year.