European spacecraft on way to Jupiter and its icy moons

European spacecraft on way to Jupiter and its icy moons


A European spacecraft rocketed away Friday on a decadelong quest to explore Jupiter and three of its icy moons that could hold buried oceans.

The journey began with a perfect morning liftoff by Europe’s Ariane rocket from French Guiana on the coast of South America. But there were some tense minutes later as controllers awaited signals from the spacecraft.

When contact finally was confirmed close to an hour into the flight, Mission Control in Germany declared: “The spacecraft is alive!”

It will take the robotic explorer, dubbed Juice, eight years to reach Jupiter, where it will scope out not only the solar system’s biggest planet but also Europa, Callisto and Ganymede. The three ice-encrusted moons are believed to harbor underground oceans, where sea life could exist.

Then in perhaps the most impressive feat of all, Juice will attempt to go into orbit around Ganymede: No spacecraft has ever orbited a moon other than our own…


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