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Juice’s journey and Jupiter system tour

on 13 April 2022

ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, Juice, is set to embark on an eight-year cruise to Jupiter starting April 2023. The mission will investigate the emergence of habitable worlds around gas giants and the Jupiter system as an archetype for the numerous giant planets now known to orbit other stars.

This animation depicts Juice’s journey to Jupiter and highlights from its foreseen tour of the giant planet and its large ocean-bearing moons. It depicts Juice’s journey from leaving Earth’s surface in a launch window 5–25 April 2023 and performing multiple gravity assist flybys in the inner Solar System, to arrival at Jupiter (July 2031), flybys of the Jovian moons Europa, Callisto and Ganymede, orbital insertion at Ganymede (December 2034), and eventual impact on this moon’s surface (late 2035).

Video credit: ESA/Lightcurve Films/R. Andres

An Ariane 5 will lift Juice into space from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou. A series of gravity assist flybys of Earth, the Earth-Moon system and Venus will set the spacecraft on course for its July 2031 arrival at Jupiter.

Juice will start its science mission about six months prior to entering orbit around Jupiter, making observations as it approaches its destination. Once in the Jovian system, a gravity assist flyby of Jupiter’s largest moon Ganymede – also the largest moon in the Solar System – will help Juice enter orbit around the gas giant. While in Jupiter orbit, the spacecraft will spend four years making detailed observations of Jupiter and three of its largest moons: Ganymede, Callisto and Europa.

During the tour, Juice will make two flybys of Europa (in July 2032), which has strong evidence for an ocean of liquid water under its icy shell. Juice will look at the moon’s active zones, its surface composition and geology, search for pockets of liquid water under the surface, and study the plasma environment around Europa, also exploring the moon’s tiny atmosphere and hunting for plumes of water vapour (as have been previously detected erupting to space).

The Juice launch itself will be a historical milestone for more reasons than one. It will be the final launch for Ariane 5, ending the launcher's nearly three-decade run as one of the world’s most successful heavy-lift rockets. Its duties are being taken over by Ariane 6.

More details here.

Image credit: ESA