The European Space Agency and Airbus have signed a deal to begin construction on a satellite probe that will study Jupiter and it’s moons. The team is carrying out this mission in hopes of finding worlds that could harbour microscopic forms of life.
A joint project while see the exploratory mission leave earth in 2022 and arrive at Jupiter roughly seven and half years later in 2029.
The probe will be assembled in Toulouse, France at the cost of 350 million euros and components will be sourced from all across Europe. The project is host to a large group of additional international participants that could likely bring the full mission bill over one billion euros in total cost.
As the primary contractor, it will be Airbus’ responsibility to see ensure that a launch will ready in seven years time.
The satellite will be named JUICE and will use a series of gravitational flybys of Earth, Venus, and Mars to steer itself out of the Jovian system, towards Jupiter. Once it reaches it’s destination, the probe will circle around the planet and pass closely by it’s moons Callisto and Europa. It’s first stop will be to settle in orbit around Ganymede.
The primary directive of JUICE’s mission is to find out whether or not any of these moons are habitable. Since they’re frozen stellar wastelands, its unlikely that it would be suitable for any human life, however Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede are all suspected to contain oceans of water below their icy surfaces; in these oceans may exist favourable conditions for microbial life.
Galileo’s discovery of the giant moons of Jupiter four centuries ago caused a revolution in how we saw our place in the Universe. By studying the icy crusts and deep sub-surface water oceans of Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto, JUICE promises to open our eyes once again: could such places provide habitats for extraterrestrial life?
Prof Mark McCaughrean, ESA’s Senior Science Advisor
Image Credit: NASA
Get our Tips and Tricks to your Inbox