NASA scientists are anticipating the July 4 arrival of the Juno spacecraft on Jupiter.
NASA continually strives to learn as much about the solar system as possible, and one of the biggest ways they do so is by sending unmanned probes to check out nearby planets. According to a report from Space.com, the NASA space probe Juno has just readjusted its course to reach Jupiter by July 4th this year.
Juno, a solar-powered spacecraft, carried out an engine burn procedure on Wednesday to correct its course and send it on a straight path towards Jupiter. The maneuver burned 1.3 pounds of fuel and changed the probe’s speed by roughly 0.7 miles per hour. The craft was still 51 million miles away from the gas giant when the course correction took place.
According to Juno team lead scientist Scott Bolton from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, “This is the first of two trajectory adjustments that fine-tune Juno’s orbit around the sun, perfecting our rendezvous with Jupiter on July 4 at 8:18pm PDT (11:18 p.m. EDT; 0318 GMT on July 5).” The second engine burn will happen on May 31.
Juno, which cost NASA a cool $1.1 billion, began in August 2011. The probe will map Jupiter’s gravitational and magnetic fields in greater detail than has ever been seen before, and scientists hope to learn about how Jupiter formed and evolved alongside the solar system.
The probe will map Jupiter’s fields as it orbits the gas giant a total of 33 times over the course of its mission. It will travel within 3,100 miles of the massive planet’s atmosphere once every two weeks, according to NASA officials. Juno is equipped with three 30-foot-long solar panels, containing a total of 18,698 cells. These will help the probe make the long journey past Mars and the asteroid belt to Jupiter.
Juno broke the record for the farthest-traveling solar powered probe in the history of space exploration. The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft was the previous holder of the record, having traveled a total of 492 million miles from Earth.
A NASA press release describing Juno’s journey can be found here.