NEW DELHI: The human race has long been searching for traces of life outside Earth. Among planets of interest in the neighbourhood are Mars and Jupiter. And their moons too.
In an attempt to study the largest planet in our Solar System, the Jupiter Icy Moons Mission (JUICE) has taken off from Kourou in French Guiana on Friday, April 14. It will also investigate whether some of its icy moons are home to conditions that could support life.
According to an official statement, funded by the UK Space Agency, the country leads on one of the 10 science instruments on board the European Space Agency’s JUICE and has contributed to the development of two more.
The UK Space Agency has invested around £9 million in the JUICE mission to explore Jupiter and its moons, the release added. UK involvement in the mission to make detailed observations of the giant gaseous planet Jupiter and three of its largest moons: Ganymede, Callisto and Europa.
JUICE will spend eight years travelling to the Jupiter system. On the way, it will perform fly-bys of Earth and Venus, using the gravitational fields of the planets to generate enough speed to reach Jupiter. One of these will be the first ever lunar-Earth gravity assist manoeuvre.
According to a statement from Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, Michelle Donelan, on arrival in 2031, JUICE will circle Jupiter and fly past the three moons. It will be making observations and taking measurements, studying the Jovian system as an archetype for gas giants elsewhere in the universe.
Finally in December 2034, JUICE will transfer into orbit around Ganymede, becoming the first spacecraft ever to orbit a moon other than Earth’s. While up close and personal with Ganymede, the mission will investigate the giant ocean that scientists believe hides under its icy crust, seeking evidence of habitability.
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