With the Juno spacecraft successfully in place in the orbit of the largest planet of our solar system, we bring you quick facts about the ambitious mission
Artist's concept of Juno arriving at Jupiter (Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- It is the first space mission to operate a solar-powered aircraft farthest from Earth. It consists of 18,698 individual solar cells.
- The NASA mission had only one shot at entering Jupiter’s orbit. When Juno approached Jupiter, the planet’s gravity pulled the spacecraft in faster, causing it to reach a speed of more than 250,000 kilometres per hour with respect to Earth. This would make it the fastest human-made object ever. Juno hit the brakes, firing its main engine in reverse. When the spacecraft slowed, it entered the planet’s orbit.
- The Juno spacecraft carries a payload of 29 sensors, which feed data to nine onboard instruments.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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