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NASA Approves ESA's JUICE Mission to Explore Jupiter's Moon Europa

Apr 17, 2017 09:14 AM EDT
Galileo's Last Mission
ESA will explore the giant gas planet Jupiter and three of its largest moons. It's probe called JUICE just passed NASA's approval phase and is set to launch in 2022.
(Photo : NASA/Newsmakers)

There will be a probe designed to explore Europa since NASA and ESA already agreed on the mission called JUICE. Europa is known to possess some characteristics that could make it habitable.

Reports say that NASA approved the European Space Agency's (ESA) mission to Jupiter to explore the planet's moon Europa scheduled for launch in 2022. The project costs a total of $114.4 million, according to a report.

ESA's probe called the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) is the first of the large-class mission of the agency's Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 program. JUICE is expected to reach Jupiter by 2030 and will explore the region for three years. According to ESA, JUICE will observe the giant gas planet and three of its largest moons -- Ganymede, Callisto and Europa.

The approval from NASA moved the mission from the design phase to the implementation giving the probe a green light. It will be the most comprehensive mission yet to explore Jupiter's moon Europa, which scientists believe could be habitable.

JUICE is designed to study the habitability of Jupiter's moons. Once in Jupiter, it will remain in the planet's magnetosphere, a relatively harsh and turbulent layer where Callisto, Ganymede and Europa are found.

The historic approval was given last April 6 in a Key Decision Point C (KDP-C), an inter-agency approval of the mission before it could proceed to the building stage. The next step would be the critical design review (CDR) that will take place in a year.

"We're pleased with the overall design of the instruments and we're ready to begin implementation," Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington said in a press release. "In the very near future, JUICE will go from the drawing board to instrument building and then on to the launch pad in 2022."

JUICE will carry with it a 10-instrument suite to Jupiter. NASA will lend a hand by sending the Ultraviolet Spectrograph (UVS) as well as other subsystems and components of the two main instruments called the Particle Environment Package (PEP) and the Radar for Icy Moon Exploration (RIME).

The instruments are designed to observe the chemistry of the system including the planet and the moons that orbit it.

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