What if we decided to land on Jupiter?

by Carson
Mars Rover at Jupiter

Jupiter is a huge place with lots of things to explore. But what if we decided to land on it?

Jupiter’s interior

Jupiter is a gas giant that has no rocky surface. You might think this case is already closed but it isn’t. In fact, you can’t reach the top of its clouds because you’d be hotter than lava due to the enormous friction. Then, what is inside it if you want to know?

Deep below the atmosphere, there is a layer of compressed metallic hydrogen. Being in a tremendous pressure, hydrogen starts to act like metals and can conduct electricity. That is what makes the powerful magnetic field of Jupiter, the strongest of all the planets. It remains liquid despite the temperature of thousands of degrees because of the pressure too.

Then, we finally reach the core. But wait, it is diffuse like a nebula. That is probably because a collision happened in Jupiter’s history. At that time, when another planet crashed into Jupiter, it interferes with the core and causes it to be diffuse.

The Journey

First of all, to reach Jupiter, you need a powerful rocket to get out of Earth’s gravity. Then, you probably need one or more gravity assists like flying by Venus, Earth or Mars while being in the Hohmann Transfer Orbit. Then, after a few years of wandering through space, the probe will arrive at Jupiter.

Juno, which takes 5 years to get to Jupiter
Blue: Earth; Light Blue: Mars; Green: Jupiter
Image Source: wikipedia.org
Galileo, which takes 6 years to get to Jupiter
Light Green: Venus; Blue: Earth; Orange: Gaspra; Light Blue: Ida; Green: Jupiter
Image Source: wikipedia.org

If you want to land right away, you will probably change your mind to Jupiter’s moons as you see them because you know Jupiter is not rocky. But let’s assume that the commander forces the probe to land on Jupiter, not its moons. Then, he or she will probably be regret when the spacecraft reaches the gas giant.

Although the friction makes the probe hot, you don’t need a heat shield because it is not enough. Even though the upper atmosphere’s pressure might be similar to Earth’s, when you go down, the air would be much thicker, probably causing your probe to be hotter than Sun. You’d be stuck in the upper atmosphere and burn up way before you see the metallic hydrogen.

Exploring Jupiter

Well, the scenario is neither funny nor interesting. How about the history of Jupiter’s explorations? Well, only 2 have ever orbited Jupiter while a few more flew by it. The flybys are all gravity assists, getting the spacecraft to a farther place. For example, thanks to Jupiter, the Voyagers, New Horizons and Pioneer 10 & 11 can escape Sun’s gravity.

The 2 orbiters are Galileo and Juno. They all used gravity assists to achieve the planet 5.2 astronomical units from Sun. Galileo uses Venus, Earth and asteroids and Juno only uses Earth once. They teach us about Jupiter a lot, including its atmosphere and magnetic field. To prevent contaminating Jupiter’s moons for future missions, they all decided to fall into Jupiter to end their lives.

So, although Jupiter is quite a fun place to explore, we can’t and won’t send a lander, a rover or a man there. It is too dangerous.

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