Juice space probe ready for epic voyage to Jupiter
The space probe Juice is scheduled to be launched next week. After a journey lasting eight years, the unmanned craft should arrive at Jupiter, where it will study the planet and its moons. The European Space Agency mission involves Belgian institutions and King Philippe will attend the launch.
Juice – Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer – is expected to arrive in mid-2031 to examine the gas planet’s atmosphere, magnetic environment and rings. It will also explore three of its moons: Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. They are thought to have oceans of liquid water beneath their ice crust, and Juice will investigate whether life ever evolved there.
In late 2034, Juice will go into orbit around Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system, before making a controlled crash landing there at the end of the mission in 2035.
Belgian expertise on board
The Royal Observatory of Belgium is involved in four of the 10 instruments on board the probe. Two of them will investigate the interior of the moons. A laser altimeter will measure Ganymede’s tides and create a topographic map, and a spectrometer will determine properties of the ice and minerals on the moons’ surface. The development of the spectrometer also involved the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy.
The launch is scheduled for 13 April at 14.15 Belgian time. It will be attended by King Philippe, who is due to visit the space centre in Kourou, French Guiana, from 11 to 14 April, accompanied by state secretary for science policy Thomas Dermine.
Belgium is a founding member of the European Space Agency. It is the fifth-largest net contributor to the agency’s budget and has participated in the Ariane research and development programme since 1973. In Belgium, the space sector represents about 3,620 full-time jobs and an annual turnover of 710 million euros.
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