Scientific Exploration of Jupiter's Inner Moons
Outer planet exploration has always been handicapped by a scarcity of power. For a mission to Jupiter, any extra power will allow the use of instruments that normally cannot be deployed in space due to their high energy consumption. Electrodynamic tethers can be used in some missions to produce required levels of onboard energy. This technology would allow, for example, to place a permanent observatory located at one of the four Jupiter inner moons (Metis, Adrastea, Amalthea, and Thebe) and sustained by an electrodynamic tether working in the generator regime. For the case of the two innermost moons, Metis and Adrastea, the electrodynamic tether would be deorbiting the moon by using its gravitational attraction while converting its mechanical energy into electrical energy that can be used onboard. Conversely, when placed in the vicinity of Amalthea or Thebe, the kinetic energy of Jupiter’s corotating plasma would be converted partly into onboard electrical energy and partly into mechanical energy of the moon.