The European Space Agency rewards the SAS scientist
The European Space Agency (ESA) awarded Ján Baláž of the Institute of Experimental Physics (ÚEF SAV, v. v. i.) for his extraordinary contribution to the JUICE mission. The JUICE probe (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer), worth 1.6 billion euros, took off on April 14, 2023, from the Kourou spaceport on an eight-year journey to Jupiter. It will closely examine its moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto during close flybys. At the end of the mission, the probe will be captured in orbit around the moon of Ganymede, making it the first time in history that a human-made object orbits the moon of another planet.
The JUICE probe carries 11 top-notch scientific equipment on board, including the PEP (Particle Environment Package) instrument complex, to the construction of which the team led by Ján Baláž made a significant contribution. The instrument will study the particle environment of Jupiter, with which the "Galilean" moons effectively interact, as they are located inside the intense radiation Van Allen belts of the giant planet. Ganymede's interactions are even more complex, as this moon also has its own magnetic field.
Part of the PEP scientific complex is also the anti-coincidence detector ACM, developed and constructed at the ÚEF SAS, v.v.i. in Košice. Its task is to register the penetration of high-energy particles through the shielding shell of the PEP apparatus into its detection system. Such particles cannot be sufficiently shaded due to mass and geometrical limits.
"Without the ACM detector, the PEP-JDC sensor would not be able to reliably distinguish low-energy plasma particles from the disturbing effects of penetrating high-energy particles," explains Ján Baláž, who was very happy with the ESA award.
"I greatly appreciate this award. It actually surprised me that they gave me the certificate already, since the JUICE probe is still 8 years of interplanetary flight and a cumulative distance of 6 billion kilometres away from its destination. I received a similar certificate in the past for my contribution to the Rosetta mission only after ten years of flight and reaching its goal - comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko," said the designer of the ACM detector.
A detailed 3D model of the JUICE probe is available on the ESA website and on the page Where is JUICE now? it is possible to track not only its current position, but also to virtually simulate its entire flight through the solar system from its start on 14.4.2023 until reaching Jupiter on 18.7.2031.
Prepared by Katarína Gáliková
Photo: ESA and ÚEF SAV, v. v. i., archive