Europa seen by Galileo in the 1990s. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute
A European spacecraft designed to study Jupiter and three of its most intriguing moons is set for launch Thursday.
Why it matters: The JUICE mission will focus on studying the moons Callisto, Europa and Ganymede, all of which might be good places to search for life in the solar system. It will also mark the first time a human-made spacecraft has orbited a moon other than our own.
What's happening: The mission is due to launch atop an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana on Thursday at 8:15am ET.
- You can watch the launch live via YouTube.
Between the lines: Europa, Callisto and Ganymede are each thought to have a subsurface ocean beneath their icy shells, potentially making them a habitable environment for microbes or other organisms.
- "Together, these moons could hold a colossal amount of water – as much as six times the water contained in Earth’s oceans," the European Space Agency wrote.
- The spacecraft will map the moons, investigate Europa's chemistry and potential for supporting life, and learn more about how Jupiter's magnetosphere interacts with its moons.
What to watch: Once launched, it will take JUICE about eight years to get to Jupiter.
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