The European Space Agency announced in May that they had selected the Jupiter Icy moons Explorer, or JUICE mission for their next large class science mission under the Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 program.
The JUICE mission will see a spacecraft launched in 2022, and arriving at Jupiter around 2030, spending around 3 years in the Jovian system making detailed observations. The mission will analyse Jupiter's atmosphere and magnetosphere, and examine Europa, Ganymede and Callisto - particularly examining the moons internal structures and oceans. After initial flybys of Europa, the mission will enter orbit around Ganymede, and focus on observing the magnetic field and internal ocean structure.
So, what has this got to do with Australian Space?
Well, the JUICE mission has recently released its call for scientific payloads which allows proposals to be made for scientific payloads from European countries, the USA, Russia or Japan - or in otherwords, contributing partners.
Within the 2010-2019 Decadal Plan for Australian Space Science, an International Collaborations and Future Opportunities program was called for. Essentially, the program was to be established to allow Australian Scientists to participate in major international space science missions, that Australia could not afford by itself.
The JUICE mission couldn't fit the bill better, as a wonderful opportunity for Australia to contribute a small amount of funding, and build an Australian payload to go and explore the Jovian system.
Participating in such an incredible scientific opportunity would not just be a major boost to Australian space science, but would serve to strengthen our cooperation with the the world's leading space agencies. Given the current budgetary difficulties within Europe and the US, additional funding would also no doubt be welcomed.
As Australia is about to release its first national space policy later this year, it is opportunities in Space Science such as the JUICE mission that we must seriously consider. With the timeframe of 20 years before the spacecraft will go into orbit around Ganymede, Australia must not pass up such an incredible space science opportunity.
It would be great to see an Australian response to the JUICE call for paylods, with the support of the Australian government to fund the payload as a modest contribution relative to the total mission size. We could then become a mission partner along with Europe, America, Russia and Japan, and we could ride JUICE to Jupiter.