The European Space Agency’s JUICE mission to explore Jupiter’s icy, ocean-bearing moons will attempt to lift off again on Friday, a day after the first launch attempt was canceled due to a lightning hazard.
The spacecraft is scheduled to launch on an Ariane 5 rocket from a European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana at 1214 GMT, 30 seconds before Thursday’s aborted attempt.
If successful, the unmanned six-ton spacecraft will embark on an eight-year journey through the solar system with the goal of discovering whether Jupiter’s moons can host extraterrestrial life in the vast oceans hidden beneath their ice-covered shells.
Thursday’s launch was canceled just minutes before the countdown began, disappointing those gathered in Kourou’s Jupiter control room, including Belgium’s King Philippe.
“A large mass of clouds approached and we could not proceed with the launch because of the danger of lightning,” Stéphane Yisrael, CEO of the French company Arianespace that supplied the Ariane 5 rocket, told AFP.
He added that the lightning threat would be monitored on Friday “until the last minute.”
The European Space Agency wrote on Twitter that Friday’s launch had received the go-ahead to fuel, and that “the weather looks good (so far)”.
“Should we try again?” he added.
JUpiter ICy Moons Explorer (JUICE) plans to take a long, winding path to the gas giant, which is about 628 million kilometers (390 million miles) from Earth.
Several boosters will use gravity along the way, first by flying close to Earth and the Moon, then by slingshotting around Venus in 2025 before swinging past Earth again in 2029.
When the probe finally reaches Jupiter in July 2031, it will need to carefully hit the brakes to enter the gas giant’s orbit.
From there, it will focus on Jupiter and its three icy moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.
liquid ocean water
Moons were first discovered by astronomer Galileo Galilei more than 400 years ago, but they were long ignored as potential candidates to host life.
However, the discovery of huge oceans of liquid water – the key ingredient for life as we know it – kilometers beneath their icy shells has made Ganymede and Europa prime candidates to host life in our celestial backyard.
JUICE will set its sights on Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system and the only one with its own magnetic field, which shields it from radiation.
In 2034, JUICE will slip into orbit of Ganymede, the first time a spacecraft has done so around a moon other than our own.
The mission will not be able to directly detect the presence of alien life, but instead aims to determine if the moons have the right conditions to harbor life.
The delay in launching the 1.6 billion euro ($1.7 billion) mission comes during a crisis in European space efforts, after Russia withdrew its Soyuz rockets in response to sanctions over the war in Ukraine.
Coupled with repeated delays to the next generation of Ariane 6 rockets and the failure of Vega C’s first commercial flight last year, Europe is struggling to launch its missions into space.
JUICE is expected to be the second and final launch of Ariane 5 before it is replaced by Ariane 6.
© 2023 AFP
the quote: European Jupiter probe set for new launch attempt (2023, April 14) Retrieved April 14, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-europe-jupiter-probe.html
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