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What are the conditions necessary for planets to form and for life to emerge? How was our solar system born? These are fundamental questions that the JUICE mission will attempt to answer when it reaches its destination in 2030 to study Jupiter and three of its moons.
Over the course of 3½ years, JUICE will focus particularly on Ganymede, a moon thought to harbour a liquid ocean beneath its icy crust. By analysing this liquid ocean, JUICE will gather precious data about the conditions required for the appearance of life in this type of environment.
The mission will also be studying two other Jovian moons, Europa and Callisto, as well as probing Jupiter’s atmosphere and magnetosphere (the layer of a planet’s atmosphere where physical characteristics are governed by the magnetic field) and how it interacts with its moons.
The JUICE mission is part of ESA’s Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 programme. France is supporting several French research laboratories (IAS, IRAP, LATMOS, LERMA, LESIA, LPC2E and LPP) that are working to develop instruments for the satellite. Among these, MAJIS (Moons And Jupiter Imaging Spectrometer), designed to characterize the surface of Jupiter’s icy moons, will be developed under the scientific and technical direction of the IAS space astrophysics institute in Orsay.
CNES is also founding industrial contracts for all the French contributions, MAJIS and the other five instruments.