Local scientists contribute to mission to Jupiter

JUICE mission to travel to Jupiter in 2022


Decades of research and development have helped scientists at the Southwest Research Institute contribute technology for a mission to Jupiter.

"Space exploration is sort of a luxury item, but it's such a huge payoff in knowledge and that's what we're in it for; to understand stuff," said scientist Randy Gladstone.

At the Southwest Research Institute, Gladstone and his fellow scientist Michael Davis already know a great deal about outer space, but they also know there is much more to learn. 

Technology developed by the two has seen outer space before and currently one of their designs is part of a mission in route to Jupiter. 

However, according to Gladstone, there is still much to be learned, especially from Jupiter's moons. 

"They think there's a layer of water underneath the surface of ice where there might be fish swimming around, maybe, who knows?" said Gladstone of Jupiter's moon Europa.

Jupiter will now again be the pair's focus after the European Space Agency selected their technology to be part of a another mission to the planet, a huge accomplishment.

"Everybody in the world was competing to get an instrument on this mission," said Gladstone.

JUICE, or Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer, is set to fly to Jupiter in 2022 and will arrive in 2030.

Aboard that mission will be Gladstone and Davis' ultraviolet spectrograph.

"It looks at light that's way more energetic that what we see with our eyes," said Gladstone.

The mission will allow the spectrograph to get close-up views of Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, Jupiter's moons.  

What it finds could have a large impact on how we view the solar system.

"Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system and has the most effect on the rest of the solar system, more effect than anything besides the sun," said Davis.

Decades of research have gone into developing the ultraviolet spectrograph, and the device has been tested over and over to make sure every minute detail is in order.

"Once it's up there, you don't have a chance to redo it," added Davis.

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