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Space | 24. August 2023 | posted by Ruth Titz-Weider

Life on Venus? A DLR FAQ about the trace gas phosphine

Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser/L. Calçada & NASA/JPL/Caltech (CC BY 2.0)
Artist’s impression of Venus, where astronomers may have first detected phosphine in 2020. Data acquired by the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope on Mauna Kea (Hawaii) and the Atacama Large Millimetre/Submillimetre Array (Chile) were analysed for this. Phosphine could be present in the upper layer of the cloud cover. However, the observation is controversial among experts.

In 2020, the planetary research community and the interested public turned their attention to Venus. A research team from the University of Cardiff had detected the gas phosphine in the high clouds of Earth’s inner neighbouring planet for the first time. Phosphine (PH3) is produced on Earth, either naturally by organic weathering processes or artificially – for example for use as fertiliser. So, were traces of life on Earth’s neighbour indirectly discovered in 2020 by detecting phosphine? That would have been a sensation. Or was it much ado about nothing? read more

Space | 12. April 2023 | posted by Kay Lingenauber

JUICE launch to Jupiter: GALA diary from Kourou

Animation des Vorbeiflugs der Raumsonde JUICE am Jupiter und seinen Monden
Credit: ESA/ATG medialab (probe); NASA/JPL/DLR (Jupiter, moons)
Animation of the JUICE spacecraft flyby of Jupiter and its moons

Part 2 – JUICE flies! We have a mission!

After a minor setback on Thursday due to a launch scrub, the Ariane 5 rocket carrying JUICE performed a flawless launch on Friday at 14:14 CEST (09:14 local time). The spacecraft is now in contact with Earth and its solar panels are deployed.

The postponement meant a second day waking up at 05:30 'Kourou time'. At 06:00, we set out for a cosy bakery in the city centre, where we prepared ourselves for the day. Check-in for the bus transfer to the Ibis, Carapa and Toucan viewing platforms had become almost routine. The weather was much better on Friday; now and then, the Sun even managed to peek through the clouds, and the breeze was gentle. The weather status remained 'green', granting the mission the all-important green light. read more

Space | 27. March 2023 | posted by Simone Del Togno

GALA on JUICE Part 3 – The challenge of radiation exposure on the 'Mount Everest of the Solar System'

Künstlerische Darstellung des Magnetfelds des Jupiters
Credit: JPL/NASA
Artist's impression of Jupiter's magnetic field

The Ganymede Laser Altimeter (GALA) will face one of the most hostile environments in the Solar System while in the Jupiter system. The space around the planet is saturated with an enormously high level of radiation, so strong that it can degrade the performance of orbiting scientific instruments or even destroy them. GALA is one of ten instruments on board the JUICE mission, which will set off for the fifth planet of the Solar System in April 2023. It was meticulously developed and extensively tested to survive and function correctly in this extreme environment. read more

Space | 20. March 2023 | posted by Kay Lingenauber

GALA on JUICE Part 2 – From the first idea to the finished instrument – a development story

Jupiter’s Galilean moons –  the target of the JUICE mission; Credit: NASA/JPL/DLR
Jupiter’s Galilean moons –  the target of the JUICE mission

In the first part of this blog series on the Ganymede Laser Altimeter (GALA), we introduced the instrument and its scientific goals. In this article, we will describe the long development history that a complex instrument such as GALA must go through until it can be launched into space.

In 2007, more than 15 years ago, ESA selected a proposal for a Jupiter mission for an ‘Assessment Phase Study’. The idea was to fly to the unexplored icy moons of Jupiter and study their atmosphere, magnetic fields and radiation belts. The mission was named Laplace. read more

Space | 13. March 2023 | posted by Hauke Hußmann

GALA on JUICE Part 1 - All set for launch to Jupiter

ESA-Raumsonde JUICE im Jupitersystem als künstlerische Darstellung
Credit: Spacecraft: ESA/ATG medialab; Jupiter: NASA/ESA/J. Nichols (University of Leicester); Ganymede: NASA/JPL; Io: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona; Callisto and Europa: NASA/JPL/DLR
ESA's JUICE spacecraft in the Jupiter system (artist's impression)

IIn April 2023, ESA's JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) spacecraft will launch to the Jupiter system. The DLR Institute of Planetary Research is playing a key role in the mission with the Ganymede Laser Altimeter (GALA) and the JANUS camera. The launch preparations are now fully under way. With the successful completion of GALA's tests on the spacecraft, the team can look back on an intensive project phase and is now eagerly awaiting the launch.

What is our goal?

Jupiter's Galilean moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, orbit Jupiter in slightly elliptical orbits lasting between 42 hours (Io) and just under 17 days (Callisto). They are comparatively close to the giant planet, which means that enormous tidal forces are exerted on the moons by Jupiter during their orbits. These forces are particularly strong on the inner moons Io and Europa, but they are also clearly detectable further out on Ganymede and Callisto. These forces lead to a periodic deformation of the surface, which can be detected with suitable instruments. This is exactly what GALA will do for Ganymede, the largest moon in the Solar System. read more