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European Space Agency To Launch Jupiter Mission

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EIRNS—The farthest mission so far by the European Space Agency (ESA) starts on April 13 with the “Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer” (JUICE). On board the probe is a reflecting telescope—German technology from Jena—used to explore Ganymede, the largest moon in our Solar System. The mission will be launched from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, and is scheduled to arrive in 2031. One of the questions to be answered is whether there might be life on Jupiter’s moons. The reflecting telescope will also help and provide answers to these questions.

As with the Artemis mission from ESA and NASA at the end of 2022, technologies from Thuringia will also play an important role in this exciting journey. During the moon flight, it was a navigation device for the spacecraft—and now a reflecting telescope is to be used. The telescope has been specially developed for the “Laseraltimeter Gala,” which will be used to explore Jupiter’s icy moon Ganymede, the largest moon in our solar system, and can measure distances very precisely, even over very long distances, according to “MDR.”

The Jena-based Gala instrument will send laser pulses to the surface of Ganymede from a distance of 500 km, thus taking a close look at it. The reflected light will then be received and a surface profile of the moon can be calculated. Accurate to within 10 centimeters. According to a press release from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF, Dr. Henrik von Lukowicz said that this would allow conclusions to be drawn about water on the moon: “If there were water below the surface, the tidal forces resulting from the moon’s motion would lead to a deformation of the surface.”

Of particular interest, he said, are the large moons Europa, Callisto and Ganymede and their oceans, ice shells, compositions, surfaces, environments and activities. There is said to be water beneath their kilometer-thick ice sheets, according to mission engineer Angela Dietz of ESA’s control center in Darmstadt, Germany: “Three moons have oceans, and they actually have a lot of water.” It may actually turn out that the conditions for life could be met there. However, you need water, energy, and stability. And that over several million years, as Dietz explains. “Europa already has the highest probability because it’s closer to Jupiter, which has more heat and energy.” But before it sounds too optimistic, “We can only investigate whether the basics are there,” Dietz says. [rap]