The European Space Agency launches the JUICE mission to explore Jupiter's icy moons.


Jupiter's icy moons

The first-ever mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) to search for alien life on Jupiter's icy worlds was successfully launched on Friday, with the JUpiter ICy moons Explorer or JUICE mission aboard an Ariane 5 rocket launched from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on Friday at 8:14 a.m. EDT (5:44 p.m. EDT), after a one-day delay due to lightning hazard.

According to the Indian website TOI, the spacecraft will take eight years to reach the largest planet in the solar system in 2031, and planetary scientist and JUICE team member Olivier Whitas said during a press conference last week: "The main goal is to understand whether there are habitable environments between those icy moons and around a giant planet like Jupiter."

Olivier Weitas, a planetary scientist at ESA, said: "Our main question is whether we can find habitable places within Jupiter's system. Learning more about Jupiter will tell us more about our solar system and other systems," and Juice will provide detailed observations of Jupiter and its three large ocean-carrying moons – Ganymede, Callisto and Europa – using a range of tools.

The mission will characterize these moons as potential planetary objects and habitats, explore Jupiter's complex environment in depth, and study Jupiter's wider system as a prototype for gas giants across the universe. The main goal is to understand if there are habitable environments between those icy moons and around a giant planet like Jupiter.

JUICE will also perform flights on Venus, Earth and the Moon to increase their speed and modify their trajectory. But to do this, those celestial bodies must be aligned correctly, which happens only twice a year, in April and again at the end of summer.

According to the European Space Agency, the cost of the JUICE mission is estimated at $1.7 billion and is the product of "global" cooperation between 23 countries, 18 academic institutions, and 83 private companies.

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