ESA Launches Mission to Find Juice-y Details on Jupiter’s Moons

Jennifer Leakos
Artist depiction of Juice missions
Courtesy of European Space Agency 

Last week, the European Space Agency (ESA) took the term “juicing up” to new heights with the launch of their latest spacecraft – the Jupiter Ice Moons Explorer (shortened to Juice). The goal of the mission will be to explore the icy moons of the planet, particularly Ganymede, Europa, and Calisto.

Why it matters: Ice, ice, baby. Years ago, the discovery of ice on Jupiter’s moons proved water can exist without being close to a star. That meant there was potential for life on these moons.

  • Previously, it was thought there were only certain habitable zones, often referred to as the Goldilocks zone – not too far and not too close from a star for life to exist.

Juice is equipped with ten advanced instruments, each with their own acronyms (JANUS, MAJIS, and more… government agencies can’t get enough acronyms). With these tools, scientists will try to figure out if there is liquid water hidden deep below the surface of Jupiter’s moons, providing more evidence of the potential for life. 

Patience is a virtue: Juice isn’t expected to land arrive at Jupiter until 2031, 8 years from now. 

What’s next? NASA currently has the Clipper mission that will be exploring Europa (the only moon that has potential to host life) that is due to land in 2030. The information from Clipper and Juice are expected to provide scientists a treasure trove that could expand the definition of what is required for a planet/moon to host E.T.

Hopefully the next mission will be called “Tea” and spill the cosmic tea on the existence of extra-terrestrial beings.