Juno has arrived !
The NASA spacecraft Juno was launched almost five years ago (August 5, 2011) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to investigate Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. Juno will orbit Jupiter for 20 months (37 orbits), after which it will leave orbit and spiral down towards the planet (February 2018).
Main goal : to understand how Jupiter was formed and how it has been evolving into what it is today. This will teach us a lot about events during the formation of our solar system. Juno will investigate whether or not Jupiter has a solid core, it will study Jupiter’s intense magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere, and observe the north and south pole auroras.
When the Roman god Jupiter fell in love with the water nympf Io, he drew a veil of clouds
around himself to hide his adventure from his wife Juno. However, Juno was able to see right
through the clouds, into Jupiter’s true nature.
And this is exactly what the Juno spacecraft will try to do : peer through Jupiter’s thick cloud cover to map the planet’s interior from above the poles.
Galileo was the first spacecraft to examine Jupiter and its moons for a longer period. It was launched in 1989 from the payload bay of the space shuttle Atlantis, and it arrived at Jupiter 1995. Galileo circled Jupiter for eight years. When it was almost out of fuel, NASA sent the spacecraft on a suicide plunge into Jupiter (September 21, 2003). This was done to protect Jupiter’s moon Europa, which might have a liquid ocean underneath the surface that contains life !
The next couple of months will be used to test Juno’s systems and to calibrate the scientific instruments. The official data collection will start no later then October 2016.
The communication delay in a one-way transmission between Earth and Jupiter is between 33 and 53 minutes.
This reminds me : I really should read the
‘Space Odyssey‘ books (1968-1997) by Arthur C. Clarke again.
So much mystery …
JPL manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. Launch management for the mission is the responsibility of NASA’s Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.