Juice mission: Succesful launch sets European space probe on course for Jupiter

On Friday at 9.14 local time (14.14 Belgian time), the European space probe Juice was launched at Kourou in French Guiana. Aboard the Ariane 5 rocket, the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer set off for the gas planet. Nearly half an hour after launch, launch company Arianespace confirmed on Twitter that Juice had detached from Ariane 5.

The launch of the Ariane 5 rocket was initially scheduled for Thursday at 9.15 local time but was postponed due to bad weather, specifically due to the risk of lightning strikes. Belgium's King Philippe and Prince Gabriel attended the launch in Kourou, alongside Josef Aschbacher, general director of the European Space Agency (ESA), and Raphaël Liégeois, the new Belgian astronaut.

Juice is an ESA mission and will be the first spacecraft to orbit a moon other than Earth's. The unmanned craft is expected to arrive at Jupiter by mid-2031 to investigate its atmosphere, magnetic environment and rings. The mission, which runs in parallel with a NASA investigation, aims to assess if Jupiter and its moons provide the necessary conditions for the emergence and existence of life as we know it.

Much attention is focused on three icy moons: Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. These are thought to contain oceans of liquid water beneath their icy crust, and Juice will investigate whether life once originated in those oceans. In late 2034, Juice will be put into orbit around Ganymede, where the probe will make a controlled crash in March 2035.


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