Europe’s JUICE mission is on an eight-year journey to the solar system’s largest planet, traveling deep into the solar system to study Jupiter and its icy, potentially habitable moons. A ground-based telescope recently caught a sneaky glimpse of the probe as it barreled through space.
On Monday, Airbus Space released rare footage of the JUICE spacecraft, captured by the Airbus Robotic Telescope (ART) based in Spain. The telescope managed to spot the spacecraft during the early part of its journey, when it was around 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth. Its destination, the Jupiter system, is more than 500 million miles away from our planet, so JUICE has a long road ahead.
The telescope’s view shows the Jupiter probe as just a speck. But this won’t be the last time we see JUICE. The spacecraft will use the gravity of the Earth-Moon system to propel it on its trajectory through the inner solar system, targeting September 2026 for an Earth flyby, followed by another one in November 2029. JUICE is estimated to reach Jupiter in 2031.
JUpiter ICy moons Explorer, or JUICE for short, launched on April 14 for a 12-year mission to study three of Jupiter’s icy moons: Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. Shortly after launch, JUICE captured its first images of Earth, as well as the deployment of its solar panels.
The team behind the mission is currently commissioning JUICE’s 10 science instruments. Nearly two weeks after its launch, the spacecraft deployed its magnetometer boom and recorded a blip of its surrounding magnetic field. The probe ran into some trouble early on when it was unable to deploy its Radar for Icy Moons Exploration (RIME) antenna. However, the stubborn instrument recently fully unfurled after engineers fixed the glitch.
The mission’s goal is to investigate these large moons for signs that they could host life. All three moons are suspected of having subsurface water oceans.
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