Ice Worlds, Ho!
I am a strong exponent of exploring the ice worlds of our solar system. As I have said before, we really need to go to Europa and Enceladus, to investigate their oceans. These worlds have as much or more water than our own planet, and several probably have liquid oceans under the icy surface. Add some chemistry, and you have conditions that could harbor life as we know it.
So we have to go look.
And, NASA is planning a visit to the surface of Titan, a very Earth like methane world, scheduled to launch in 2026.
Not to be left out, the European Space Agency has its own mission in development, called JUICE (a tortured acronym (in English) for JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) . This mission is designed to visit three ice moons of Jupiter, orbiting Callisto, Ganymede, and Europa.
The spacecraft is under development now, with a launch planned for June 2022 (which I should live to see) .
Now, Jupiter is a long, long way, so it will take seven years to get there. The mission plan includes gravitational boosts from fly bys of Mars, Venus, and Earth (three times!).
Once on station out at Jupiter (planned for 2029), JUICE will execute an extremely complicated tour for several years, orbiting Jupiter, flying by and swooping close to Europa and Calisto, and ending in orbit of Ganymede.
Hairy doesn’t begin to describe this mission!
If all goes well, this will give us detailed information about the surface and internal oceans of these three worlds.
This is all getting pretty far out on my own personal life expectancy, so I may not live to see the results. But go, JUICE, go.
- European Space Agency, #5: JUICE begins to take shape, in ESA – Science and Technology – JUICE. 2019. https://sci.esa.int/web/juice/-/-5-juice-begins-to-take-shape
- European Space Agency, Mission Scenario and Operations, in ESA – Science & Technology -JUICE. 2019. https://sci.esa.int/web/juice/-/50074-scenario-operations