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What are the conditions necessary for planets to form and life to emerge? How was our solar system born? These are fundamental questions the JUICE mission will be attempting to answer starting in 2030 by exploring 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.
| JUICE spacecraft surveying Ganymede—the mission’s main target—up close, with the gas giant Jupiter in the background. Credit: ESA|
The mission will also be studying two other Jovian moons, Europa and Callisto.
JUICE will also be 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, LPP, LAB and IPAG—working to develop instruments for the satellite.
Among these, the French MAJIS instrument (Moons And Jupiter Imaging Spectrometer), designed to characterize the surface of Jupiter’s icy moons, will be supplied by the IAS space astrophysics institute in Orsay, France, under a technical partnership with CNES. The agency is funding industrial contracts for all of the French contributions, for MAJIS and the laboratories working on the five other instruments.