A key radar antenna of a spacecraft bound for Jupiter is no longer blocked
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A key radar antenna on a European spacecraft en route to Jupiter is no longer blocked.
Air traffic controllers in Germany freed the 16 meter long antenna on Friday after almost a month of effort.
The European Space Agency’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, nicknamed Juice, launched in April on a decade-long voyage. Shortly after launch, a tiny pin refused to move, preventing the antenna from fully opening.
The controllers tried shaking and heating the spacecraft to move the pin a few millimeters. Successive jabs finally did the trick.
The radar antenna will look deep beneath the icy crusts of three of Jupiter’s moons thought to harbor subsurface oceans and possible life. These moons are Callisto, Europa and Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system.
Juice will try to get into orbit around Ganymede. No spacecraft has ever orbited any moon other than our own.
For NASA’s Lunar Flashlight spacecraft, the news wasn’t so good. After months of unsuccessfully fighting to get the Cubesat into orbit around the moon, the space agency announced its retirement on Friday.
Launched in December, the Lunar Flashlight was to search for ice in the shadowed craters of the lunar south pole. Now it flies back to Earth and then into space, continuously orbiting the Sun.
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