NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit on Tuesday morning, five years after taking off from Earth. The feat is a big step forward in understanding the origin and evolution of the largest planet in our solar system.
“With Juno, we will investigate the unknowns of Jupiter’s massive radiation belts to delve deep into not only the planet’s interior, but into how Jupiter was born and how our entire solar system evolved,” said NASA administrator Charlie Bolden.
Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) erupted in cheers when the USD 1.1 billion Juno spacecraft sent home the news of successfully executing a 35-minute engine burn that put the probe into the planned orbit around Jupiter.
With its suite of nine science instruments, Juno will study the existence of a solid planetary core, map Jupiter’s intense magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere and observe auroras of Jupiter.
The mission will also help us understand how giant planets played a role in putting together the rest of the solar system, NASA said.
As our primary example of a giant planet, Jupiter also can provide critical knowledge for understanding the planetary systems being discovered around other stars.
The Juno spacecraft was launched on August 5, 2011 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Confirmation of a successful orbit insertion was received from Juno tracking data monitored at the navigation facility at JPL in California, as well as at the Lockheed Martin Juno operations centre in Colorado.
The telemetry and tracking data were received by NASA’s Deep Space Network antennas in the US and Australia.
(With inputs from agencies)