NASA’s Juno Will Perform Close Flyby of Jupiter’s Icy Moon Europa

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With an equatorial diameter of 1,940 miles (3,100 kilometers), Europa is about 90% the size of Earth’s Moon. Scientists think a salty ocean lies below a miles-thick ice shell, sparking questions about potential conditions capable of supporting life underneath Europa’s surface.

The close flyby will modify Juno’s trajectory, reducing the time it takes to orbit Jupiter from 43 to 38 days. It will be the closest a NASA spacecraft has approached Europa since Galileo came within 218 miles (351 kilometers) on Jan. 3, 2000. In addition, this flyby marks the second encounter with a Galilean moon during Juno’s extended mission. The mission explored Ganymede in June 2021 and plans to make close approaches of Io in 2023 and 2024.

Data collection will begin an hour prior to closest approach, when the spacecraft is 51,820 miles (83,397 kilometers) from Europa.

“The relative velocity between spacecraft and moon will be 14.7 miles per second (23.6 kilometers per second), so we are screaming by pretty fast,” said John Bordi, Juno deputy mission manager at JPL. “All steps have to go like clockwork to successfully acquire our planned data, because soon after the flyby is complete, the spacecraft needs to be reoriented for our upcoming close approach of Jupiter, which happens only 7 ½ hours later.”


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