The European Space Agency’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE), which departed for the Jupiter system on April 14, now has its own documentary about the final stages of the mission’s development, documenting the challenges associated with assembly of a spacecraft during a pandemic and the joy of a difficult launch.
The two-hour documentary, simply called ‘The Making of JUICE’, is the brainchild of JUICE Project manager Giuseppe Sarri and project scientist Olivier Witasse. It is currently available for free through the European Space Agency Youtube Channel.
“We came up with the idea to film key moments in the final phase of JUICE’s development and testing,” Sarri said in a statement. rack. In March 2019, JUICE had just successfully completed its Critical Design Review and received the green light to integrate all instruments into the craft and begin testing. “It seemed just the right time to document our progress, with the idea of capturing not only the technical aspects, but especially the human elements of this very challenging undertaking.”
The duo worked with planetary scientist Maarten Roos, also a documentary filmmaker, who spent the next three to four years interviewing the mission’s scientists across Europe. Roos also closely followed the construction and testing of the spacecraft in the cleanrooms of Airbus in Germany.
Related: Europe’s JUICE probe will be the first to use the gravity of the Earth and moon to swing toward Jupiter
JUICE was an important subject for this documentary because it is considered the European Space Agency‘s largest and most ambitious mission yet. The spacecraft is on its way Jupiter to study three gas giants‘ known Galilean moons – the icy worlds of Europe, Ganymede And Callisto (the single moon omitted is the fiery, volcanic one Io). JUICE will fly past Europa twice, Ganymede twelve times and Callisto 21 times before orbiting Ganymede, the world’s largest moon. solar systembigger even than the planet Mercury.
Jupiter’s icy moons are of great interest because at least two of them, Europa and Ganymede – and possibly all three – are thought to harbor subsurface oceans that could potentially have conditions suitable for primitive life.
It is an extremely exciting mission, but also a challenging one. In that respect, filming was also a challenge.
Not long after production on the film began, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, delaying the mission by a year. To keep the public informed of the progress of the mission during this longer period, Roos has made some of his footage available early in the form of ten short five-minute films and seventeen one-minute fragments prior to the successful launch of JUICE from French. Guyana.
Subsequently, after the launch, Roos edited all the footage to produce the final version of ‘The Making of JUICE’, the final product which premiered on ESA’s YouTube channel on 23 November.
“It is an entertaining film, easy to watch, that tells the story of JUICE from its first conception to the beginning of its journey to Jupiter,” said Sarri. “And it shows that behind all great projects are great people.”
Among these incredible people featured in the film are the mission’s key scientists, as well as the engineers and technicians who built, tested, and launched the spacecraft itself. For example, we meet Michel Blanc of the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie in France, who constructed the original plan for what eventually became JUICE. The film also speaks to Michelle Dougherty of Imperial College London, who is the scientific lead on JUICE’s magnetometer instrument and who recalls how the mission was initially a joint venture with NASAand had to be hastily redesigned in just three months when NASA shut down.
We also meet engineers who are not normally in the spotlight. For example, Andrea Hertel, the only woman on the Airbus mechanical engineering team who worked on JUICE, talks about how the spacecraft is strongly magnetic. This meant that the team had to be very careful with the tools they used around it. Even a set of car keys could potentially have been a problem if they had gotten too close and become attached to the spacecraft’s components.
We also get a glimpse of the opening of the spacecraft’s solar panel wings as they are tested in the cleanroom. We learn that solar radiation is so low at Jupiter, between 25 and 30 times less than what Soil experiences that the solar panels can only supply 900 watts of energy. That’s barely enough to power a hairdryer. Therefore, all spacecraft functionality must be designed to operate under this energy constraint.
In addition, we also see firsthand how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the development of the mission. Sarri, who was interviewed a few months before the pandemic hit, talks about how the launch was planned for May 2022, to take advantage of a number of carefully planned fly-bys of the inner planets to gravity boost needed to throw the spacecraft at Jupiter.
“For us it is very important to be on time,” Sarri says in the film, but the pandemic necessitated a significant change in plans, including launching a year later and an extra year of travel. time to Jupiter, from 7 to 8 years, with the arrival now in 2031. The film shows how the scientists and engineers nevertheless kept things moving during the mission during the pandemic, with teams of technicians and engineers forming ‘bubbles’ and working in separate shifts so as to stay separated and prevent the spread of the virus to limit.
Overall, ‘The Making of JUICE’ is a great behind-the-scenes look at the challenges inherent in building and sending an interplanetary mission to room. In this case also during a pandemic.
The film ends with the successful launch of JUICE and the excitement of the scientists and engineers. Maybe we’ll get a sequel in ten years once JUICE arrives at Jupiter and starts studying the icy moons.
You can watch “The Making of JUICE” for free on the European Space Agency’s website Youtube Channel.