ESA JUICE Mission Launch Delayed by Lightning Threat
The launch of the European Space Agency (ESA)'s JUICE mission to explore Jupiter and its icy moons has been delayed by 24 hours due to weather conditions. The spacecraft was scheduled to lift off on Thursday, April 13, at 8:15 a.m. ET aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. However, the risk of lightning near the launch pad forced the mission team to scrub the launch about 10 minutes before liftoff.
The JUICE mission, which stands for JUpiter ICy moons Explorer, aims to study Jupiter and three of its largest and most intriguing moons: Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. These moons are thought to harbor liquid water oceans beneath their icy crusts, making them potentially habitable for life. The spacecraft will take eight years to reach Jupiter, using gravity-assist flybys of Earth, Venus and Mars along the way. It will arrive at Jupiter in July 2031 and spend about three and a half years orbiting the gas giant and conducting flybys of its moons. In the final phase of the mission, JUICE will become the first spacecraft to ever orbit Ganymede, the largest and most unique moon in the solar system.
The JUICE mission is a collaboration between ESA and several other agencies and companies, including NASA, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Airbus Defence and Space, Thales Alenia Space and Arianespace. The spacecraft carries 10 scientific instruments to investigate the atmospheres, surfaces, interiors and magnetospheres of Jupiter and its moons. The mission also aims to address some of the fundamental questions about the origin and evolution of the solar system and the emergence of life.
The launch of JUICE has been rescheduled for Friday, April 14, at 8:14 a.m. ET. The launch window is only one second long, due to the need to conserve fuel and achieve a precise trajectory for the journey to Jupiter.