May 27, 2024

Jupiter probe “Juice” is on the road to success with Swiss tools

(Keystone SDA) The Jovian probe “Joyce” is on its way, a year after its launch. Peter Wurz, who participated in the mission, told the Keystone-SDA news agency that the mission has gone so well so far that more can be achieved scientifically than expected.

“Joyce” was launched into space on April 14, 2023 aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

After arriving at Jupiter in July 2031, the probe will search for traces of life under, among other things, the icy surfaces of Jupiter's moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

Saved fuel

“Everything went according to plan from the beginning,” Wurtz said. He is Director of the Institute of Physics at the University of Bern. Under his leadership, a measuring device for the “Juice” mission was developed and built in Bern.

The probe picked up the correct course, thus saving the fuel that was planned for the course correction. “This fuel could later be used in science,” Wurtz says. Exactly how the extra fuel will be used is currently being debated. For example, more flybys of Jupiter's moons or flybys of Jupiter's moon Ganymede are possible.

The antenna was a concern

However, when the investigation was launched, everything did not go according to plan, Wurtz admitted. The approximately 16-metre-long radar antenna called “Rime”, which was folded during launch, was not folded properly. “It gave us stomach pain for a few days,” Wurtz said. However, this is still achieved using a complex process in which the probe is pointed towards the warm Sun.

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In one year, Aseer traveled approximately 951,650,000 kilometers – that is, more than 2.5 million kilometers per day. However, the probe has only completed about 12% of its journey. Because it reaches Jupiter by turning. In order to use as little energy as possible on the journey, it first orbits the Sun several times and thus gains momentum.

Many Swiss institutions participated

In addition to searching for traces of life, the Juice mission also aims to contribute to the general understanding of Jupiter's formation. Since the gas giant is the oldest planet in our solar system, understanding its composition is important for understanding the formation of Earth. History is said to be preserved in the ice on Jupiter's moons.

Specifically, scientists study the chemical composition of the moons. Joyce will not land on the icy moons to take water samples directly, but will only pass through them.

The Swiss University of Bern, the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) and the Swiss Federal Institute for Materials Testing and Research (Empa) are participating in the European Space Agency (ESA) mission.