Ibadan, 23 January 2023. – The European Space Agency (ESA) has unveiled a commemorative plaque celebrating Galileo’s discovery of Jupiter’s moons on ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer as part of the final preparations. The plaque is a tribute to Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei who was the first to view Jupiter and its four largest moons through a telescope in January 1610. His observation that the moons changed position from night to night overturned the long-held idea that everything in the heavens revolved around Earth. In his honor, the moons – Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto – became collectively known as the Galilean satellites.
The plaque, which replicates several pages of Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius, where he describes his observations of the moons, was unveiled at Airbus Toulouse on 20 January. Following the event, Airbus will pack the spacecraft for its transatlantic flight to French Guiana, where they will prepare it for launch on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport.
“Unveiling the plaque is a beautiful moment in this intense chapter of preparing the spacecraft for launch,” says Giuseppe Sarri, ESA’s Juice project manager. “It’s not only an opportunity to pause and reflect on the decades-long hard work that has gone into conceiving, building, and testing the spacecraft but also to celebrate the curiosity and wonder of everyone who’s ever gazed up at Jupiter in the night sky and pondered our origins – the inspiration behind this mission.
ESA and its international partners are almost ready to send Juice on its quest to explore Jupiter and its moons. As a result, Juice will see Jupiter and its moons in a way that Galileo could not, using its suite of powerful instruments. Furthermore, the data the spacecraft returns will serve many future generations of scientists in uncovering the mysteries of the Jovian system and its place in the evolution of our Solar System.