The European Space Agency’s JUICE mission is finally on its way to Jupiter. The mission successfully launched on Friday, April 14. Over the weekend, the ESA shared four photos taken by the spacecraft as JUICE said goodbye to Earth.
The spacecraft took a total of four photos, which the ESA says were taken to test out JUICE’s camera systems before it got far along its journey. JUICE, which stands for Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, is currently on its way to Jupiter, where it will study the gas giant’s various moons.
Chief among the goals of this mission is more in-depth studies of Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa — all of which are believed to bear large oceans on their surface (or perhaps beneath it). The JUICE mission is quite ambitious and will characterize these moons in ways we never have before.
JUICE took its final photos of Earth with the two cameras that are situated on the spacecraft. JUICE monitoring camera 1 (JMC1) is located on the front of the spacecraft. It looks diagonally up toward one of the solar arrays. The second camera is on the top of the spacecraft.
JMC2 is ideally placed to monitor the multi-stage deployment o JUICE’s 16 m-long Radar for Icy Moons Exploration (RIME) antenna. This antenna will allow JUICE to peer deep within the ice that covers the surface of Jupiter’s moons.
While these photos of Earth that JUICE took are just the start, it’s always cool to see a spacecraft’s final image of Earth as it makes its way away from the planet we call home.
Of course, this won’t be JUICE’s last time seeing Earth, as it will complete a lunar-Earth gravity assist several times throughout its prolonged journey to Jupiter, so we could likely see more JUICE photos of Earth throughout the coming years of its trek through our solar system.