NASA Announces Contributions to European JUICE Mission to Jupiter's Moons

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NASA has announced that it will contribute an instrument to the European Space Agency's upcoming mission to Jupiter and three of its largest moons, Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, or JUICE, scheduled to launch in 2022.

JUICE to orbit Jupiter and its moon Ganymede

JUICE is a primarily European Space Agency mission, with American and Japanese participation, that will conduct multiple flybys of Jupiter's moons Europa, Callisto, and Ganymede starting in 2030 before settling into orbit around Ganymede in 2030. According to the ESA, "During the tour, gravity assists with Callisto and Ganymede will shape the trajectory. Two targeted Europa flybys are included focusing on composition of the non water-ice material, and the first subsurface sounding of an icy moon. Additional, Callisto gravity assists will be also used to raise the orbit inclination to almost 30 degrees and to enable observations of the Jupiter polar regions. The frequent Callisto flybys will enable unique remote observations of the moon and in situ measurements in its vicinity. The mission will culminate in a dedicated eight months orbital tour around Ganymede during which the spacecraft will perform detailed investigation of the moon and its environment and will eventually impact on Ganymede."

NASA to contribute instruments to the JUICE mission

According to NASA, the space agency will contribute the Radar for Icy Moon Exploration experiment. This instrument will penetrate the ice covered oceans of Europa, Callisto, and Ganymede to map the structure of the ice crust for the first time. In addition, NASA will provide an ultraviolet spectrometer that will explore the atmospheres of the three moons as well as that of Jupiter and a particle environment package "to measure the neutral material and plasma that are accelerated and heated to extreme levels in Jupiter's fierce and complex magnetic environment."

Jupiter exploration

JUICE will be the latest spacecraft to visit Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system. Previous probes include the Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11, Voyager 1, and Voyager 2 flyby missions in the 1970s. These provided some of the first close-up views of Jupiter and its moons. Galileo orbited Jupiter between 1995 and 2003 when it made extensive studies of Jupiter, its moons, and the surrounding environment. Galileo was crashed into Jupiter at the end of its operational lifespan. NASA's Juno, launched in 2011, is due to enter a polar orbit around Jupiter in 2016. Juno will concentrate on studies of Jupiter's atmosphere to ascertain its composition and to measure thermal radiation emanating from the planet.

Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo and The Last Moonwalker. He has written on space subjects for a variety of periodicals, including The Houston Chronicle, The Washington Post, USA Today, the L.A. Times, and The Weekly Standard.

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