JUICE is Going to Jupiter

How exciting! Two missions are set to explore Jupiter’s icy moons. I described NASA’s Europa Clipper a while back, but the European Space Agency’s (ESA) JUICE mission launches a year earlier – scheduled for this month (April), 2023. But, due to its scheduled activities, JUICE will arrive at Jupiter nearly a year later than Clipper.

So, why send two spacecraft to Jupiter at just about the same time? Because.

Seriously, the missions are somewhat different in scope and focus. Together, Clipper and JUICE will answer many big questions about those ice-covered moons. Probably raise big new questions in the process!

NASA’s Europa Clipper is dedicated to studying Europa, its super thin atmosphere, surface, sub-surface environments (ocean), and its ice-plume vents. Clipper will be like going to your doctor for the first time – a lot of poking, peering, listening, fluid examinations. Fortunately Europa won’t feel violated after Clipper is finished. All of Clippers examinations are non-invasive – maybe like a breath test. Nevertheless, we will have a bunch more data about Europa than we have currently.

ESA’s JUICE – Jupiter ICy moons Explorer will visit and spend time with Europa, Castillo, and Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest icy moons. Alas poor Io, so close, but no respect.  Instead of an icy moon, it’s a fireworks moon with volcanos erupting almost continuously. Not a primary candidate for life? I suspect it’s just too dangerous!

JUICE is scheduled to launch this month and after swinging around the Moon, Earth, Venus, Earth, into the asteroid belt, back around Earth, back through the asteroid belt…it should arrive (dizzy?) at the Jovian system in July 2031. Once there it will enter orbit around Jupiter, perform complex maneuvers and multiple flyby observations, starting with Ganymede.

Europa flybys are planned for 2032 and then JUICE will maneuver into Castillo flybys in 2033. Over the course of a year JUICE will study Castillo and work its way back to Ganymede, with an orbit insertion targeted for December 2034. At that moment JUICE will be the first spacecraft to orbit a natural satellite other than the Moon. JUICE will spend about a year studying Ganymede and de-orbit after running out of fuel, crashing into Ganymede.

The science instruments on JUICE include: PEP(Particle Environment Package), SWI(Sub-millimeter Wave Instrument),UVS(Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph),MAJIS(Moons and Jupiter Imaging Spectrograph),RPWI(Radio and Plasma Wave Investigation),JANUS (Jovis, Amorum ac Natorum Undique Scrutator: Latin for a comprehensive observation of Jupiter, his love affairs, and descendants),J-MAG(JUICE Magnetometer),3GM(Gravity and Geophysics of Jupiter and Galilean Moons),RIME(Radar for Icy Moons Exploration),PRIDE(experiment using Earth-based long-baseline radio telescope interferometry to determine the spacecraft’s precise location and velocity).  Whew, think I got it all!

Some similarities exist with Europa Clipper, but redundant data gathered by different equipment is valuable support.

What’s in the Sky?

April 5; 11:35pm CDT: Full (Pink) Moon, also called the Paschal Moon – the first full Moon of the spring season.

Hey! Astronomy Night last Saturday at Tye Preston Memorial Library was a record breaker, with around 100 attendees. What a party! Thanks to all who joined in the fun!