10 Things To Know About NASA’s Juno Mission To Jupiter

Posted on July 5, 2016 in Down To Earth, Sci-Tech, Staff Picks

By DTE Staff:

Note: This article has been republished from Down To Earth.

1. NASA’s Juno will be the first spacecraft to see below the dense cover of clouds over Jupiter and reveal mysteries about how the planet was formed. The spacecraft is named after the Roman goddess and wife of Jupiter who could see below the clouds. Juno is even carrying three 1.5-inch LEGO figurines of the Roman gods and a telescope-armed Galileo Galilei, the Italian astronomer who made important discoveries about the planet.

2. Juno was launched on August 5, 2011, and has been in flight for five years. It will attempt to jump into Jupiter’s polar orbit on July 4 between 8 and 9 pm PDT (Pacific Daylight Time) or between 8:30 and 9:30 am IST on July 5.

3. Since its launch from Earth till orbit insertion, Juno will have travelled 2,800 million kilometres which is more than 18 times the average distance from the Earth to the Sun.

4. The spacecraft’s main body is less than 12 feet (4 metres) in height as well as diameter. It weighs 1,593 kg and carries 1,280 kg of fuel. Nearly 450 kg of this fuel reserve will have burnt in 35 minutes of Juno entering Jupiter’s orbit.

5. It is the first space mission to operate a solar-powered aircraft farthest from Earth. It consists of 18,698 individual solar cells.

6. The NASA mission has only one shot at entering Jupiter’s orbit. When Juno approaches Jupiter, the planet’s gravity will pull the spacecraft in faster, causing it to reach a speed of more than 250,000 kilometres per hour with respect to Earth. This will make it the fastest human-made object ever. Juno will hit the brakes, firing its main engine in reverse. When the spacecraft has slowed, it will enter the planet’s orbit.

7. The Juno spacecraft carries a payload of 29 sensors, which feed data to nine onboard instruments.

8. The mission aims to understand how the planet was formed, the planet’s interior structure, its atmosphere and magnetosphere. This information is expected to enhance our understanding of the solar system.

9. The total mission cost NASA US $1.13 billion. This cost includes spacecraft development, science instruments, launch services, mission operations, science data processing and relay support for 78 months.

10. The mission will end in less than two years, with Juno leaving the orbit of Jupiter on February 20, 2018. By then, Juno will have travelled 560 million kilometres in orbit around Jupiter.

Feature Image Source : David McNew/Getty Images
Banner Image Source :  NASA/JPL-Caltech