Juice mission to Jupiter's moons lifts off from French Guiana
ESA's historic mission to explore the moons of Jupiter – and orbit the largest moon in the solar system, Ganymede – is on its way today, as its eight-year voyage to the giant planet begins. At 2:14 pm CEST (12:14 GMT), the JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (Juice) robotic probe lifted off from Europe's Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana atop an Ariane 5 rocket.
After liftoff, the first stage of the Ariane 5 burned for 27 minutes before the separation of the upper stage, and at the 36-minute mark the first signals from the uncrewed probe were received. One hour and 30 minutes after launch, the giant solar array that will power Juice during its mission was fully deployed.
According to ESA, Juice will have a busy two and a half weeks as it deploys its collection of instrument booms and antennas. This will be followed by an intense shakedown as the systems are inspected as part of the commissioning period.
Beginning in August 2024, Juice will carry out the first of four gravity assist flybys of the Earth, Moon, and Venus to provide it with the velocity it needs to arrive at Jupiter in 2031. Once at the Jovian moon system, the probe will conduct a number of flybys of Callisto, Europe, and Ganymede before going into orbit around Ganymede
"ESA, with its international partners, is on its way to Jupiter," said ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher. "Juice’s spectacular launch carries with it the vision and ambition of those who conceived the mission decades ago, the skill and passion of everyone who has built this incredible machine, the drive of our flight operations team, and the curiosity of the global science community. Together, we will keep pushing the boundaries of science and exploration in order to answer humankind’s biggest questions."