An artist's illustration of the JUpiter ICy moons Explorer spacecraft in the Jovian system. The mission will launch in 2022 and arrive at Jupiter in 2030 to study the planet and its largest moons. CREDIT: ESA/AOES  Enlarge

An ambitious European mission that will launch a robotic probe to explore Jupiter's icy moons in 2022 has got its science gear.

The European Space Agency has picked 11 instruments for the planned JUpiter ICy moons Explorer, or JUICE, spacecraft. The mission is expected to reachJupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, in 2030 and spend at least three years studying the gas giant's major moons Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede. The Jovian satellites are intriguing to scientists because they are thought to have vast oceans beneath their icy outer crust.

"Jupiter and its icy moons constitute a kind of mini-Solar System in their own right, offering European scientists and our international partners the chance to learn more about the formation of potentially habitable worlds around other stars," said Dmitrij Titov, JUICE study scientist for ESA, in a Feb. 21 statement.

The JUICE mission will observe Jupiter's atmosphere and magnetosphere, as well all four Galilean moons: Europa, Callisto, Ganymede and the volcanic Io. The spacecraft is expected to make 12 flybys of crater-covered Callisto, as well as two close passes of Europa in an attempt to gather the first-ever measurements of the thickness of that moon's frozen crust, ESA officials said. [Amazing Space Missions to Jupiter]

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