NASA has selected key contributions to a 2022 European Space Agency (ESA) mission that will study Jupiter and three of its largest moons in unprecedented detail. The moons are thought to harbor vast water oceans beneath their icy surfaces.
NASA's contribution will consist of one U.S.-led science instrument and hardware for two European instruments to fly on ESA's Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) mission. Jeffrey Plaut of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., will be the U.S. lead for the Radar for Icy Moon Exploration experiment. The radar experiment's principal investigator is Lorenzo Bruzzone of Universita degli Studi di Trento in Italy.
Under the lead of Bruzzone and the Italian Space Agency, JPL will provide the transmitter and receiver hardware for a radar sounder designed to penetrate the icy crust of Jupiter's moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto to a depth of about 5 miles (9 kilometers). This will allow scientists to see for the first time the underground structure of these tectonically complex and unique icy worlds.
JUICE will carry 11 experiments developed by scientific teams from 15 European countries, the United States and Japan.
The spacecraft will orbit Jupiter for three years and travel past Callisto and Europa multiple times, then orbit Ganymede, a moon larger than the planet Mercury. JUICE will conduct the first thorough exploration of Jupiter since NASA's Galileo mission from 1989-2003.