NASA’s Juno spacecraft entered Jupiter’s orbit on 5 July 2016. It was an epoch making event in the mission which costs $1.1 billion dollars and was launched five years ago.
The Juno mission seeks to unravel the origin of the biggest planet in the solar system.
The craft which took five years to reach its destination is powered by massive solar panels. Controllers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory jumped in joy when the spacecraft flashed the message that it is entering the Jovian planet’s orbit and is circling Jupiter’s poles.
The arrival of the craft in the Jupiter’s orbit was a tricky maneuver, and Juno fired its rockets to arrest its speed and slip into the orbit. Juno accomplished this feat autonomously because of the time lag in communication between Jupiter and Earth.
Mission control had shut the camera and other instruments and therefore there will be no pictures of the event. However, NASA released some photos showing the Jovian planet glowing yellow in the distance during the spacecraft’s approach to the giant planet.
Juno has covered a mind-boggling 2.7 billion kilometers since it was launched from Cape Canaveral. However, the wait will not be long, and soon we will be getting images when the craft skims the gigantic clouds of the Jovian atmosphere.
Jupiter is the biggest member of the Solar Family and is a massive ball of gas composed mainly of Hydrogen and Helium. It is an extreme world with no rocky surface like Earth, Venus or Mars. Peering through the clouds scientists hope to unlock the history of how the Earth and the rest of the planets were formed.
Juno is named after the cloud-piercing wife of Jupiter in Roman mythology. It is NASA’s second mission designed to study Jupiter. NASA had earlier sent the Galileo spacecraft to the Giant planet in 1989. It beamed back pictures of the planet and its moon.