Juno in Jupiter
After the last five years spent travelling through the solar system, during the early hours of last Tuesday morning the Nasa spacecraft Juno finally reached Jupiter’s orbit.
The mission which launched in 2011 has seen Juno journey for more than 1.8 billion miles, travelling nearly 250,000 kilometres per hour. The $1.13 billion mission all rested on Juno’s final approach, whereby the craft had to insert itself into the orbit around Jupiter, igniting its main engine for 35 minutes. Successfully completed Juno will now begin its 37 orbits around Jupiter.
The primary goal of the mission is to reveal Jupiter’s formation and evolution, giving us the first glimpse of what’s below the planet’s dense clouds. During the orbit Juno will repeatedly dive through Jupiter’s radiation belt, coming within 3,000 miles from Jupiter’s cloud tops at its closest approach.
The scientific data collected will focus on the planet’s gravity and magnetic fields allowing scientists to gather more information about this immense planet than ever before. It will take the highest resolution images of Jupiter in history and it’s the first mission to orbit an outer planet from pole to pole. The mission will also sought to establish a timeline of the planet’s evolution, with many scientists believing it was the first planet to form, the mission holds the clues to how the rest of the solar system evolved.
The spacecraft which weighs nearly 8,000 pounds is powered by three solar arrays which uses energy from the sun as a form of electricity. It is also the first spacecraft to fly with 3D printed titanium parts. Travelling at speeds of 130,000mph it became the fastest ever man made craft.
And even Google got in on the action with a celebratory GIF showing Nasa’s pixelated ground crew jumping for joy at the mission’s success. On Sunday, six days after it started its orbit Juno’s visible light camera was turned on, returning its first images. The camera shows a sunlit portion of the planet, together with three of its four moons.
Whilst Juno still faces a long dangerous road, if the mission goes to plan it will end in the spacecraft de-orbiting and crashing into Jupiter in 2018. Not before the transmittance of vital data which will hopefully provide unprecedented information on our solar system as a whole.