JUICE to Jupiter could be ESA’s next major science mission

Apr 19, 2012 By Nancy Atkinson
Artist concept of JUICE, a Jupiter moons orbiter mission. Credit: ESA

The Science Programme Committee of the European Space Agency has recommended that the next major space mission for ESA be an orbiter mission to the Jupiter system named JUICE, the JUpiter ICy moons Explorer. This mission would launch in about 2020 and explore potentially habitable moon around the gas giant, Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede.

This recommendation is not the final decision, but puts JUICE as a front-runner for when representatives of all 19 ESA member states meet to discuss the various mission candidates on May 2, 2012

Other missions being considered are ATHENA , the Advanced for High-ENergy Astrophysics (originally called IXO) – which would be the biggest X-ray telescope ever built — even though smaller in scope than the original IXO) and study the extremes of the Universe: from black holes to large-scale structure ; and NGO, the New Gravitational wave Observatory, a smaller version of LISA, a space-borne gravitational wave detector which would place a three satellites in orbit.

“This is a big blow to space based astrophysics,” wrote European science blogger Steinn Sigurdsson, who added that rumors are floating around that the NGO science team may be disbanded immediately, even though the new report issued by the Science Programme Committee is just a recommendation.

Planetary Society blogger Emily Lakdawalla also commented on the selection — if it is accepted — “represents a big win for planetary science and a big loss for space-based astrophysics in Europe. Which is, one can’t help but notice, opposite to what the currently-proposed NASA budget represents.”

Whatever mission is chosen for the next flagship science mission, ESA knows it will likely have to do it on their own.

In March 2011, NASA informed ESA that that it was highly unlikely that they could become a major partner in an “L” (large) mission for the 2020 timeframe.

“Given the resulting impossibility to continue with the mission concepts defined in the Assessment Phase, the Executive terminated the relative activities for EJSM-Laplace, IXO, and LISA, and informed the members of the three Science Study Teams of the termination of their mandate,” the new report says. “To preserve as much as possible the investment of the scientific community and of the Member States in the study activities of the L mission candidates, the Executive implemented a recovery action in the form of a fast-track re-formulation activity. The aim has been to ascertain if and which of the science goals of the L mission candidates could be implemented in the context of a programmatically feasible European-led, or potentially European-only mission.”

With NASA no longer in the mix, ESA knew they would have to descope their proposed missions, and with costs needing to be at least 20% less than originally planned. “Needless to say, missions within these constraints must be significantly less complex than the original L mission concepts selected in 2007,” the report says.

ESA’s science goals for the front-runner JUICE mission is to visit the Jupiter system concentrating on the characterization of three possible ocean-bearing worlds, Ganymede, Europa and Callisto as planetary objects and potential habitats and on the exploration of the Jupiter system considered as an archetype for gas giants in the solar system and elsewhere. The focus of JUICE is to characterize the conditions that may have led to the emergence of habitable environments among the Jupiter’s icy satellites.

Explore further: SpaceX launches supplies to space station (Update)

Related Stories

NASA and ESA prioritize outer planet missions

Feb 18, 2009

At a meeting in Washington last week, NASA and ESA officials decided to first pursue a mission to study Jupiter and its four largest moons, and plan for another mission to visit Saturn's largest moon, Titan, ...

Jupiter's proposed mission system achieves milestone

Feb 07, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- With input from scientists around the world, American and European scientists working on the potential next new mission to the Jupiter system have articulated their joint vision for the Europa ...

Oxygen discovered at Saturn's moon Dione

Mar 02, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Dione, one of Saturn’s icy moons, has a weak exosphere which includes molecules of oxygen, according to new findings from the Cassini-Huygens mission.

ESA chooses 3 scientific missions for further study

Feb 19, 2010

Dark energy, habitable planets around other stars, and the mysterious nature of our own Sun, have been chosen by ESA as candidates for two medium-class missions to be launched no earlier than 2017.

Recommended for you

SpaceX launches supplies to space station (Update)

10 hours ago

The SpaceX company returned to orbit Friday, launching fresh supplies to the International Space Station after more than a month's delay and setting the stage for urgent spacewalking repairs.

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

10 hours ago

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

12 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

The importance of plumes

13 hours ago

The Hubble Space Telescope is famous for finding black holes. It can pick out thousands of galaxies in a patch of sky the size of a thumbprint. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Hubble provided ...

Ceres and Vesta Converge in Virgo

16 hours ago

Don't let them pass you by. Right now and continuing through July, the biggest and brightest asteroids will be running on nearly parallel tracks in the constellation Virgo and so close together they'll easily ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...