The Icy Satellites

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The ESPACE project

Jupiter's satellites

Saturne's satellites

Uranus's satellites

Neptune's satellites

Exploration missions

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The missions for exploration

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Cosmic Vision (ESA)
ESA is establishing long term plans for scientific projects of space exploration. The projects for mission that will take place between 2015 and 2025 were named "Cosmic Vision". One of the objectives of ESA for the coming years is the exploration of planets and moons of the solar system, to determine their formation conditions and habitability.

From the space missions that have been selected by ESA one finds:
  • Jupiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE, previously called LAPLACE):
    This mission is the first L-class mission L1 of ESA and is dedicated to the exploration of the system of Jupiter (launch in 2022). The spacecraft will be in orbit around Ganymede and perform flybys of Europa and Callisto. The Royal Observatory of Belgium is implicated in this projects to answer the following questions:

    • What were the conditions of formation of the Jovian System?:
      The observation of Jupiter's satellites should shed some light on the question. Indeed, irregular satellites are the last witnesses from the period of formation of the system. The craters created by impacts on the Galilean satellites and the possible clues as to the impact scenarios should also contribute to a better understanding of the system's formation.

    • How does the system work?:
      The Jovian system is made up of different objects tied together by gravitational attraction, for example the three first Galilean satellites are linked by laplacienne resonance. But these objects interact equally with the magnetic field of Jupiter. The JUICE mission should analyse these interactions quantitatively, concentrating more specifically on their consequences on the habitability of Ganymede and Europa.

    • Is Ganymede habitable?:
      The spaceprobe will be placed around Ganymede to study it in detail, and it will is also possible that a lander will be send to the surface in collaboration with Russian scientists. The probe will check to see in habitable conditions apply there (presence of liquid water in the internal ocean, possibilities of direct contact of the ocean with a rocky plate, the chemical and dynamic characteristics on the surface and inside, exchanges between the surface and the ocean and presence of biological signatures). The flybys of Europa will allow stutying the question of habitability of Europa. This research will enable for the larger point of view of the origin and evolution of the Jovian system.

The Scientists of the Observatory are involved in several instruments of this mission:

  1. Gravity and Geophysics of Jupiter and the Galilean Moons (3GM)
    Co-I: Tim Van Hoolst; Team Member: Veronique Dehant
    PI from Italy (Luciano Iess)
  2. Galilean moons Laser Altimeter (GALA)
    Co-I: Marie Yseboodt
    PI from Germany (Hauke Hussmann)
  3. JUICE Magnetometer (J-MAG)
    Co-I: Tim Van Hoolst
    PI from the UK (Michele Dougherty)
  4. Planetary Radio Interferometry and Doppler Experiment (PRIDE)
    Co-I: Pascal Rosenblatt
    PI from the Netherlands (Leonid Gurvits)
  5. Moons and Jupiter Imaging Spectrometer (MAJIS)
    Co-I: Özgur Karatekin
    PI from France (Yves Langevin)
NASA's study programmes
  • Titan Explorer with Orbiter:
    The goal of this mission would be the radar mapping of Titan in high resolution and the study of its pre biotic chemistry. The launch is set for 2025.
  • Enceladus Explorer:
    This mission will focus on the study of cryovolcanism at the south pole of Enceladus. Departure set for 2020.
  • Europa Astrobiology Lander:
    This mission would be dedicated to the study of the geology of Europa and it's habitability. Departure set for 2035.
  • Europa Geophysical Explorer:
    This mission would study the internal ocean of Europa and look at landing possibilities for future missions. Launch set for 2015.
  • Neptune/Triton Orbiter:
    Launch set for 2035.

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