After years of development plus a 24-hour delay due to bad weather, the European Space Agency’s Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer (aka JUICE) is just hours away from launching and starting its eight-year journey to Jupiter. JUICE will explore the Jovian system, particularly the icy moons of Ganymede, Callisto and Europa, before eventually settling into an orbit around Ganymede in 2034. If successful, JUICE will be the first spacecraft to orbit a moon other than our own.
And Sonic will be along for the ride!
As we reported back in 2019, Sonic adorns the spacecraft as part of the logo for one of its instruments, the Radio & Plasma Wave detector (RPWI):
SEGA was nice enough to grant the team permission to use Sonic in their logo after the RPWI team leader, Dr. Jan-Erik Wahlund, requested it. According to Dr. Wahlund, Sonic was chosen due to his many adventures in space, as well as Wahlund and his team’s deep affection for the character. That the spacecraft is called “Juice,” a commonly used word by SatAM Sonic and his assumed name during the show’s Blast to the Past two-parter is purely coincidental.
The Sonic-adorned space craft will be launching from Guiana Space Center using an Ariane 5 rocket. It’ll be going on a little tour of the solar system over the next few years, using Earth, the Moon and Venus for various gravity assist maneuvers, before eventually passing through the asteroid belt (where it may do a fly-by of an asteroid) and reaching the Jovian system in July 2031. In July 2032, it will do a flyby of Europa before settling into a high-inclination orbit around Jupiter in order to study its polar regions and magnetosphere.
In December 2034, it will begin the aforementioned orbit around Ganymede, before crashing into the moon at some point the following year. That final maneuver may be changed if scientists conclude it may contaminate a liquid ocean.