On Thursday, 29 September, at 2:36 a.m. Pacific time, the NASA Unona spacecraft approached 358 kilometres to the surface of Jupiter's natural satellite, Europe, and the probe is expected to receive images of the ice moon with the highest resolution in history. It will also collect valuable data on its subsoil, surface composition and ionosphere, as well as its interaction with Jupiter's magnetosphere.
This information will be useful for future missions to the moons of a gas giant, including Europa Clipper. Its launch is scheduled for 2024. "Europe is the most intrigued moon of Jupiter. It is now the focus of NASA," stated the chief researcher of the mission of USO, Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "We are pleased to provide data that will assist the Europa Clipper team in planning the mission, as well as to provide new scientific data on this icy world."
Europe has an Equatorial diameter of 3,100 kilometres, about 90 percent of the size of the Earth's moon, and scientists believe that under the ice shell there is a salty ocean a few miles thick.
The close passage changed the course of "Unoleo" from 43 days to 38 days, reducing the time needed to travel around Jupiter, the closest approach of NASA's spaceship to Europe since the Galileo probe approached it on 3 January 2000 at a distance of 351 kilometres. The mission investigated Ganimed in June 2021 and plans to approach Io in 2023 and 2024.