Watch this space for extraordinary life
After years of planning, a decade of construction and a 24-hour launch delay, the Jupiter Ice Moon Explorer is finally on its way.
Launch is flawless, but Juice has a long way to go.
Getting to Jupiter requires an eight-year, four-billion-mile slow waltz through the solar system.
Several orbits of the sun, one slingshot around the moon and Earth, and another around Venus, will see it arrive in 2031.
When it gets there, it will suffer from intense radiation from Jupiter’s powerful magnetic field, as well as low light levels from the sun, which is 600 million miles farther away than we are.
But Juice was designed to handle that.
A suite of 10 scientific instruments will enable it to conduct the most detailed survey ever conducted of Jupiter’s largest moons: Ganymede, Europa and Callisto.
Cameras will photograph their surfaces, while radar and magnetometers will allow scientists to peer into the kilometers of ice covering them and deduce what might be happening in the warm, salty ocean believed to exist beneath the ice. What.
Could life, like the one found around Earth’s deep-sea vents, be hiding in Jupiter’s powerful moons? Or are we all alone?
Well, watch this space.