This Thursday, a rocket is set to take off from the European spaceport in French Guinea. Aboard it is a spacecraft called the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, or JUICE, which, if all goes according to plan, will touch ground on Jupiter’s moons in eight years.

The largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter has dozens of moons. Three of them – Europa, Callisto and Ganymede – are covered in water. As Mike Sori, a planetary scientist at Purdue University, explains, the outer surfaces of these moons are frozen solid, but scientists are pretty sure that heat from the interior of these moons maintains vast subsurface oceans.

Where there is water, there may be the possibility of life. But with the limited data available to planetary scientists today, it has been difficult to learn much about these three fascinating moons. JUICE, as well as a second mission led by NASA called Europa Clipper that is scheduled to launch in 2024, hope to shed light on these watery worlds.

Also today:

Daniel Merino

Associate Science Editor & Co-Host of The Conversation Weekly Podcast

The surface of Europa – one of Jupiter’s moons – is a thick layer of solid ice. NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

Jupiter’s moons hide giant subsurface oceans – two upcoming missions are sending spacecraft to see if these moons could support life

Mike Sori, Purdue University

The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer and Europa Clipper missions will arrive at Jupiter in the 2030s and provide researchers with unprecedented access to the icy moons orbiting the gas giant.

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