Scientific Missions And Discoveries Of Jupiter


So far there have only been a total of 9 spacecraft to study the planet Saturn. Of the 9 spacecraft to study the planet 7 spacecraft visited as flybys, whereas there have only been 2 mission to study and visit Jupiter for its entire lifespan. This is not a full list to describe every detail about these missions, but rather this is an overview of the missions that have succeeded and provide a snapshot about the science they provided.

Proposed And Upcoming Missions

There have been several missions that have been cancelled to the planet. Moreover, space agencies such as NASA have proposed mining missions to the planet.

Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer (Estimation of 2022)

The JUpiter ICy moons Explorer is an interplanetary spacecraft in development by the European Space Agency with Airbus Defence and Space as the main contractor. It is expected to launch in 2022 and arrive in Jupiter at 2030. The mission will study three of Jupiter’s Galilean moons: Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa, but will exclude the more volcanically active Io, all of which are thought to have significant bodies of liquid water beneath their surfaces, making them potentially habitable environments.[1]


Pioneer 10

The first spacecraft to explore Jupiter was Pioneer 10, which flew past the planet in December 1973. Pioneer 10 obtained the first-ever close-up images of Jupiter and its Galilean moons; the spacecraft studied the planet’s atmosphere, detected its magnetic field, observed its radiation belts and determined that Jupiter is mainly fluid.

Pioneer 11

Pioneer 11 made its closest approach on December 4th, 1974, but it still made some important scientific discoveries. It obtained dramatic images of the Great Red Spot, made the first observation of Jupiter’s immense polar regions, and determined the mass of Jupiter’s moon Callisto. The information gathered by these two spacecraft helped astronomers and engineers improve the design of future probes to cope more effectively with the environment around the giant planet.[2]

Voyager 1

Voyager 1 began photographing Jupiter in January 1979 and made its closest approach on March 5th, 1979, at a distance of 349,000 km from Jupiter’s center.[3] This close approach allowed for greater image resolution, though the flyby’s short duration meant that most observations of Jupiter’s moons, rings, magnetic field, and radiation environment.

Voyager 2

The approach to Jupiter of Voyager 2 followed the Voyager 1 probe and the probe discovered Jupiter’s ring, observed intricate vortices in its atmosphere, observed active volcanoes on Io, a process analogous to plate tectonics on Ganymede, and numerous craters on Callisto.[4]

Ulysses Spacecraft

Although the spacecraft lacked cameras to be able to take photos when it used Jupiter for a planetary assist, the probe made measurements of the planet’s magnetosphere.

Cassini Spacecraft

In 2000, the Cassini probe, en route to Saturn, flew by Jupiter and provided some of the highest-resolution images ever taken of the planet. The major findings Cassini took were relating to Jupiter’s atmospheric circulation.

New Horizons Spacecraft

Although close to Jupiter, New Horizons‘ instruments made refined measurements of the orbits of Jupiter’s inner moons, particularly Amalthea. The probe’s cameras measured volcanoes on Io, studied all four Galilean moons in detail, and made long-distance studies of the outer moons Himalia and Elara.[5] The craft also studied Jupiter’s Little Red Spot and the planet’s magnetosphere and tenuous ring system.[6]

Dedicated Spacecraft To Study Jupitr


The first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter was the Galileo orbiter, which went into orbit around Jupiter on December 7th, 1995. It orbited the planet for over seven years, making 35 orbits before it was destroyed during a controlled impact with Jupiter on September 21st, 2003. The Galileo spacecraft was able to make some major scientific results and findings, which includes:

  • the first observation of ammonia clouds in another planet’s atmosphere—the atmosphere creates ammonia ice particles from material coming up from lower depths;
  • confirmation of extensive volcanic activity on Io—which is 100 times greater than that found on Earth; the heat and frequency of eruptions are reminiscent of early Earth;
  • observation of complex plasma interactions in Io’s atmosphere which create immense electrical currents that couple to Jupiter’s atmosphere;
  • providing evidence for supporting the theory that liquid oceans exist under Europa’s icy surface;
  • first detection of a substantial magnetic field around a satellite, which was of Ganymede;
  • magnetic data evidence suggesting that Europa, Ganymede and Callisto have a liquid-saltwater layer under the visible surface;
  • evidence for a thin atmospheric layer on Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto known as a ‘surface-bound exosphere’;
  • understanding of the formation of the rings of Jupiter, caused by dust kicked up as interplanetary meteoroids which smash into the planet’s four small inner moons, and observation of two outer rings and the possibility of a separate ring along Amalthea’s orbit;
  • identification of the global structure and dynamics of a giant planet’s magnetosphere.


NASA launched Juno on August 5th, 2011 to study Jupiter in detail. It entered a polar orbit of Jupiter on July 5th, 2016. The spacecraft is studying the planet’s composition, gravity field, magnetic field, and polar magnetosphere. Juno is also searching for clues about how Jupiter formed, including whether the planet has a rocky core, the amount of water present within the deep atmosphere, and how the mass is distributed within the planet. Juno also studies Jupiter’s deep winds.[7]

Check out the Planetary Bodies Category for previous and upcoming articles on the solar system planets.


[1] = “ESA—Selection of the L1 mission” (PDF).
[2] = “Preparing to build ESA’s Jupiter mission”ESA. ESA. 17 July 2015.
[3] = Stone EC, Lane AL (June 1979). “Voyager 1 Encounter with the Jovian System”. Science204 (4396): 945–948. Bibcode:1979Sci…204..945S. doi:10.1126/science.204.4396.945. JSTOR 1748134. PMID 17800428.
[4] = Smith BA, Soderblom LA, Johnson TV, Ingersoll AP, Collins SA, Shoemaker EM, Hunt GE, Masursky H, Carr MH, Davies ME, Cook AF II, Boyce J, Danielson GE, Owen T, Sagan C, Beebe RF, Veverka J, Strom RG, Mccauley JF, Morrison D, Briggs GA, Suomi, VE (June 1979). “The Jupiter System Through the Eyes of Voyager 1”. Science204 (4396): 951–972. Bibcode:1979Sci…204..951S. doi:10.1126/science.204.4396.951. PMID 17800430.
[5] =  Cheng, A. F.; Weaver, H. A.; Conard, S. J.; Morgan, M. F.; Barnouin-Jha, O.; Boldt, J. D.; Cooper, K. A.; Darlington, E. H.; et al. (2008). “Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager on New Horizons”. Space Science Reviews140 (1–4): 189–215. arXiv:0709.4278. Bibcode:2008SSRv..140..189C. doi:10.1007/s11214-007-9271-6.
[6] = “Fantastic Flyby”. NASA. May 1, 2007. Archived from the original on July 25, 2009.
[7] = NASA Selects New Frontiers Concept Study: Juno Mission to Jupiter | Jupiter Today – Your Daily Source of Jupiter News

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