The Juno science team has proposed doing fly-bys of three of Jupiter’s moons, should NASA extend the mission beyond ’21.
Juno’s five-year primary mission phase ends in July 2021, and mission managers have proposed an extension that would continue operations until September 2025. The spacecraft’s additional orbits around Jupiter will bring Juno closer to the planet’s moons, allowing for a more diversified set of scientific targets.
…The moon flybys would begin in mid-2021 with an encounter with Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon, at a distance of roughly 600 miles (1,000 kilometers), according to Bolton.
After a series of distant passes, Juno would swoop just 200 miles (320 kilometers) above Europa in late 2022 for a high-speed flyby. Only NASA’s Galileo spacecraft, which ended its mission in 2003, has come closer to Europa.
There are two encounters with Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io planned in 2024 at distances of about 900 miles (1,500 kilometers), according to the flight plan presented by Bolton last month.
The extended mission would also allow scientists to get a better look at Jupiter’s north pole.
NASA will decide on the extension by the end of the year. From a cost and scientific perspective, it makes perfect sense to extend this mission for as long as possible. Compared to launching a new mission, extending an active one is far cheaper. It is also already in place.
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