The European Space Agency (ESA) plans to explore Jupiter and its moons by launching a space probe to the solar system’s largest planet in 2022.
The agency made the announcement in Paris on Wednesday, describing the Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer project as "Europe’s next large science mission."
The probe will be launched into space from a European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on an Ariane 5 rocket.
It will take about eight years for the probe to reach Jupiter, meaning it will arrive in 2030. It’s expected to spend the next three years studying the gas giant and several of the larger moons that orbit it.
Three moons are of particular interest – Europa, Ganymede and Callisto – because they are thought to have internal oceans that could potentially be home to living organisms.
"Jupiter is the archetype for the giant planets of the Solar System and for many giant planets being found around other stars," the ESA’s director of science and robotic exploration Alvaro Giménez Canete said in a statement.
"JUICE will give us better insight into how gas giants and their orbiting worlds form, and their potential for hosting life."