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Monday, August 24, 2015
Japan tech to explore Jupiter moon
The Yomiuri Shimbun
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002377117 The European Space Agency has decided to adopt for an exploration mission to Jupiter technology developed by a Japanese research institute for observing electromagnetic waves. The technology would be used to analyze the atmosphere and surface ice of Ganymede, one of Jupiter’s moons, and play an important role in searching for signs of life.
The ESA plans to launch the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) in 2022 and have a probe arrive near the planet in 2030. The probe is to be equipped with technology for observing terahertz radiation (see below) that was developed by Yasuko Kasai, a specialist in Earth and planetary observation and a senior researcher at the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), which is under the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.
This would be the first time for the technology, which detects faint electromagnetic waves emitted by various substances to determine their type and properties, to be used in planetary exploration.
Scientists from the ESA and NICT are expected to exchange written agreements on the matter this month.
JUICE is scheduled to spend about three years orbiting Jupiter and Ganymede, and will use NICT’s observation equipment and several other devices to investigate their origins and properties.
Ganymede is one of Jupiter’s 60 moons. With a radius of about 2,600 kilometers, it is the largest moon in the solar system. While smaller than Earth, which has a radius about 6,400 kilometers, it is larger than Mercury’s 2,400-kilometer radius.
The mission plans to observe Ganymede using terahertz radiation at altitudes ranging from 200 kilometers to 5,000 kilometers. The technology would be used to search for elements that are essential for life, including nitrogen, oxygen, carbon and phosphorus, as well as nitrous oxide, which indicates the possibility of life.
NICT’s terahertz radiation equipment features an antenna that is about 30 centimeters in diameter and weighs about 13 kilograms. At a cost of several hundred million yen, the technology is both compact and relatively cheap. According to NICT, equipment with similar capabilities but using microwaves and ultraviolet light would weigh about 500 kilograms, making it impossible to load onto the probe.
■ Terahertz radiation
A form of electromagnetic wave with a frequency between that of radio waves and light. Substances emit terahertz radiation at fixed frequencies, so by analyzing differences in the frequencies, the presence of certain substances in the atmosphere or on the ground’s surface can be investigated.Speech