Jupiter’s Moons Are About To Get JUICE’d For Signs of Life

The European Space Agency will soon send JUICE, or the JUpiter ICy moons Explorer on a mission to scout out Jupiter and three of its 79 moons: Europa, Callisto, and Ganymede. From a report: Scheduled to launch in April 2023, JUICE will blast off from an Ariane 5 rocket before embarking on a 7.6-year journey to reach the gas giant. Broken up by multiple gravitational assists -- or pushes that help adjust a spacecraft's speed and trajectory -- from Venus and Earth, the explorer will carry some of the most powerful remote sensing and geophysical instruments ever flown to the outer solar system. Last month, a 1:18 scale model of JUICE was employed at the ESA's testing center in the Netherlands to try out one of the instruments, RIME, also known as the Radar For Icy Moons Exploration. RIME will use ice-penetrating radar and a 52-foot-long antennae to map the subsurface structure of these moons, up to about 5.6 miles down. To test, the model was placed in a chamber lined with metal walls that blocked incoming radio signals and black, spiky foam coating that absorbed internal radio signals, or outgoing transmissions. This dichotomy helped the JUICE team simulate both the vast emptiness of space and the challenges the craft could run into during the mission.

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