A major new development could have a huge impact on NASA's Juno mission, which is currently in orbit around the gas giant.
It’s been months since NASA’s Juno spacecraft arrived at our solar system’s largest planet, Jupiter, back on July 4, and now a major new revelation has come from NASA: the spacecraft won’t move into closer orbit around Jupiter like they originally planned to, which is sure to be disappointing for many people. It was supposed to undergo an engine burn in October to cut its orbital period from 53 to 14 Earth days, but that is now permanently off the table.
Scientists discovered an issue with two helium valves on the Juno spacecraft that postponed the maneuver from its original date. Now, NASA has announced it has cancelled the engine burn permanently, so Juno will stay in its elliptical orbit through the end of the mission.
NASA engineers conducted a thorough review and example multiple scenarios, but ultimately they were too concerned that a main engine burn would result in an orbit that could have jeopardized Juno’s science objectives, or even the spacecraft itself.
Juno was launched back in 2011 to provide the first in-depth study of Jupiter and its magnetic and gravitational fields, as well as its interior structure.
“Juno is healthy, its science instruments are fully operational, and the data and images we’ve received are nothing short of amazing,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The decision to forego the burn is the right thing to do — preserving a valuable asset so that Juno can continue its exciting journey of discovery.”