April 17, 2024

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A stuck antenna released on a Jupiter-bound spacecraft

A stuck antenna released on a Jupiter-bound spacecraft

The critical radar antenna on a Jupiter-bound spacecraft is no longer jammed

Cape Canaveral, Florida – An important radar antenna on a European spacecraft bound for Jupiter is no longer jammed.

Flight controllers in Germany released the 52-foot (16-meter) antenna on Friday after nearly a month of effort.

The European Space Agency’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, nicknamed Juicy, launched in April on a decade-long journey. Shortly after launch, a small pin refused to budge and prevented the antenna from fully opening.

The controllers tried to vibrate and heat the spacecraft to move the pin just millimeters. Finally, cascading shakes did the trick.

A radar antenna will peer deep beneath the icy crust of three of Jupiter’s moons suspected of harboring underground oceans and possibly life. Those moons are Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system.

Juice will attempt to enter orbit around Ganymede. No spacecraft has ever orbited a moon other than our own.

The news wasn’t good for NASA’s Lunar Flashlight spacecraft. After struggling unsuccessfully for months to get Cubesat into lunar orbit, the space agency called it quits on Friday.

The Lunar Lamp was launched in December and was supposed to search for ice in the shadowed craters of the moon’s south pole. Now it’s heading back toward Earth and then into deep space, continually orbiting the Sun.

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The Associated Press Health and Science section receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Education Media group. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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