Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Europe plans mission to Jupiter

The European Space Agency (ESA) has approved a roughly €1-billion (US$1.3 billion) mission to Jupiter. On 2 May, ESA's Science Programme Committee endorsed the Jupiter Icy moons Explorer, or JUICE, as its next ‘large class’ space probe. JUICE was favoured over two other missions — the space-based New Gravitational-wave Observatory, and an X-ray telescope called ATHENA.

If all goes well, JUICE will launch in June 2022 on an 11-year mission to explore the giant planet and several of its moons, snapping photos of Jupiter's aurora and hunting for liquid oceans beneath the surfaces of Ganymede and Europa.

JUICE beat competing spacecraft in part because it has a lower risk of cost overruns and technical problems, says Michele Dougherty, the lead scientist on the JUICE study team and a researcher at Imperial College London. But, she adds, the probe also has broad appeal. "The strength of JUICE is that it's of interest to a diverse community of scientists," she says. Read More