European Space Agency: The Juice satellite was launched on an Ariane 5 rocket from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana.
There was joy, relief and plenty of hugs when the onlookers, scientists, officials and VIPs were told that the flight to orbit was successful.
The European Space Agency (ESA) project got lucky for the second time after a launch attempt had to be canceled on Thursday due to weather.
Shortly after descending from the summit of Ariane, Juice called home. A key milestone was confirming that the satellite’s giant solar system was correctly positioned. All of which are her 90 square meters.
“We have a mission. We are flying to Jupiter. We are full of questions. Jupiter, juice is coming! Get ready,” said ESA’s Mission Control Operations in Darmstad , Germany.
The Director General of the Agency, Dr. Josef Aschbacher, is proud that the €1.6 billion mission is successfully underway. “But I have to remind everyone that there is still a long way to go,” he said. “We have to test all the equipment to make sure it’s working as expected before we reach Jupiter, of course. But we are very close to our goal. “
Jupiter’s Icy Moons Explorer (Juice) will be sent to the largest planet in the solar system to study the main moons Callisto, Ganymede and Europa.
These worlds are believed to contain vast reservoirs of liquid water.
Scientists are interested in whether the moon could also have life.
It may sound imaginative. Located in the cold, outer solar system, far from the Sun, Jupiter receives only 1/25th of the light that reaches Earth. But the gravitational pull exerted on the moon by the gas giants suggests that the moon may have the energy and heat to power simple ecosystems similar to those that exist around volcanic vents on Earth’s ocean floor. I mean “In the case of Europa, beneath its icy crust is believed to be a deep ocean, perhaps 100km deep,” said mission scientist Professor Emma Bunce of the University of Leicester, UK.
“This ocean is 10 times deeper than the deepest ocean on Earth, and we think the ocean touches a rocky bottom. So we imagine a scenario where some mixing and interesting chemical reactions take place.” We are providing it,” she told BBC News.
Ariane doesn’t have enough weight to send Juice directly to its destination, at least within a viable timeframe.
Instead, the rocket sent the spacecraft into orbit around the solar system. A series of Venus-Earth flybys then gravity launches the mission to its intended destination.
It’s a journey of 6.6 billion km that takes 8.5 years. Arrival in the Jupiter system is expected in July 2031. The icy Callisto, Ganymede and Europa were discovered in 1610 using a recently invented telescope by Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei. He could see them as little dots orbiting Jupiter. (He was also able to see a fourth celestial body known as Io, a much smaller world covered in volcanoes).
The ice trio is 4,800 to 5,300 km in diameter. To illustrate this, Earth’s natural satellite is about 3,500 km in diameter.
Juice will study the moon from afar. That is, it will fly over the surface. No landing. Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system, is the satellite’s ultimate target. Complete a tour of orbit that orbits the world in 2034.
Radar is used to see the moon. Create a 3D map of the surface using Lidar, a laser measurement device. Magnetometers probe complex electrical and magnetic environments. Other sensors collect data about swirling particles surrounding the moon. Of course the camera returns an infinite number of images.
All of this takes place hundreds of millions of kilometers away from Earth where light conditions are bleak to say the least.
Satellites require all the power they get from the giant sun’s wings. Even its size produces enough “juice” to run about 850 watts, which is equivalent to a home microwave.
This mission does not look for specific “biomarkers” or try to find aliens.
The goal is to collect more information about potential habitability so that subsequent missions can more directly address the question of life.
Scientists are already working out how to place a lander on one of Jupiter’s frozen moons and penetrate the crust to reach the waters below.
In Earth’s South Pole, researchers are using heat to drill hundreds of meters into the ice sheet and deploy submersibles where the local ocean is frozen.
This is a daunting task, and will be even greater on Jupiter’s moons, where the ice crust can be tens of kilometers thick.
Juice won’t be alone in its work.
The US space agency NASA sends its own satellite called Clipper. It leaves Earth after Juice, but should arrive just before its European brothers next year. The more powerful booster rocket has the advantage.
“There is great complementarity and the teams are very keen to collaborate,” said Prof Carole Mundell, the director of science at the European Space Agency.
‘Certainly, there’s going to be a wealth of data. But first, we’ve got to make sure our missions get to Jupiter and are operating safely,” she told BBC News.