On Thursday, weather conditions forced the European Space Agency to postpone the launch of its Juice mission to Friday, April 14, 2023, which aims to explore the icy moons of Jupiter in search of habitable environments for forms of extraterrestrial life.
The launch must therefore be operated from Kourou, Guyana, at 2:12 p.m. (Paris time), explains Arianespace on Twitter.
The juice will arrive at Jupiter in 2031
If this second attempt succeeds, Juice will take the road to Jupiter. But its arrival near the gas giant is only scheduled for July 2031.
Until then, the trip promises to be winding since reaching Jupiter by a direct trajectory is impossible.
The probe will indeed have to go through complex maneuvers of gravitational assistance, using the force of attraction of other planets, like a catapult. By a flyby Moon-Earth first, then Venus (2025), then again Earth (2029), before taking its momentum towards the mastodon of the solar system and its largest moons, discovered by Galileo 400 years ago: Io the volcanic and its three frozen companions Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.
Camera, radar, altimeter, etc.
Designed by Airbus, Juice carries ten scientific instruments (optical camera, imaging spectrometer, radar, altimeter, magnetometer, etc.), protected from extreme temperatures by a multi-layer insulation cover.
The probe is also equipped with huge 85 m2 solar panels – the size of a basketball court – to keep power in an environment where sunlight is 25 times weaker than on Earth. It will be launched by an Ariane 5 rocket, which will be the penultimate flight before being replaced by Ariane 6.
Finding an environment conducive to life
Juice’s main quest is to find not life directly on Jupiter’s satellites but environments suitable for it to appear.
Suppose Jupiter, a gaseous planet, is uninhabitable. In that case, its moons Europa and Ganymede are ideal candidates: under their icy surface, they harbor oceans of liquid water – only liquid water makes life possible.