Juno Reaches Jupiter!

juno-jupiterA dear friend emailed this to me and I just think it is so exciting! Can you imagine being in space for 5 years?  And that’s just the one-way trip!

On July 4th, after a 5-year, 1.8 billion-mile journey, our Juno spacecraft will be up close and personal with the big bad boy planet, Jupiter!   She will get closer to the gas giant than ANY other spacecraft in history, plunging into the strongest magnetic field and the most lethal radiation belt in the solar system!  Jupiter is the size of almost 1,000 Earths combined and very much like the Sun, made up mostly of hydrogen and helium but there are also small amounts of heavier elements like carbon and nitrogen – what?!?!  The Juno mission will help solve its mysteries, as she orbits the planet for almost 2 years, studying Jupiter’s atmosphere, gravity and magnetic fields, and peering deep beneath its clouds to study its composition.  Juno will give us valuable clues on how planets form and determine whether Jupiter has a rocky core.

BUT … Juno will have to first slow down to allow itself to be captured into orbit around Jupiter (called “JOI” = Jupiter Orbit Insertion).  This is a critical, dangerous, nail-biting event!  Starting at 8:13 pm PDT, the spacecraft will put on its brakes by firing its main engine for 35 minutes.  We won’t be able to get telemetry during the most critical period of JOI – we will have to depend on Juno transmitting 3-second radio tones that tell us how the burn is progressing!  Yikes!

The good news is that our Deep Space Network (DSN) will be pointing all its amazing ‘giant ears’ at Juno to capture her signals –  two 70m antennas and an array of five 34m antennas and four 34m antennas located in California and Australia.

Go Juno!  Go DSN!