NASA today achieved another feat after Juno completed its entry into Jupiter’s orbit. The five-year long mission cost $1.1 billion. Juno passed through Jupiter’s clouds at immense speeds of 130,000 miles per hour, to finally reach its orbit.

NASA’s Juno satellite had to fire a rocket booster to slow its approach and enter the orbit by getting caught in Jupiter’s gravity. After 35 minutes, at 11:53 p.m. Eastern time, a signal from the spacecraft announced the end to its burn sequence leaving it in its desired orbit of Jupiter. Euphoria erupted at the Mission Operations Center in Pasadena, California, celebrating the success of a five-year long space voyage.

What is Juno ?

Juno is the second spacecraft to enter Jupiter’s orbit. It is far more advanced and promising as compared to the first spacecraft Galileo, that spent eight years surveying the planet and its moons. Jupiter is believed to have been the first planet to be formed after the sun. This may give some understanding as to the origins of our solar system. Depending upon the water content found on it and the possible presence of a rocky core, scientists will be able to decode the location of origin of Jupiter in the solar system.

Juno is the most distant solar powered spacecraft voyage in history.
Juno is the most distant solar powered spacecraft voyage in history.

NASA’s Juno is fitted with some of the most advanced instruments designed to precisely measure the magnetic and gravitational fields of Jupiter and the glow of microwaves emanating from within.

Plans for future.

Since Thursday, the satellite has been on autopilot performing programmed instructions. The scientific instruments on board which were turned off for the arrival at Jupiter will be turned back on again in two days. On August 27, Juno will have its first close good look at Jupiter.

Juno : Planned mission orbit.
Juno’s planned mission orbit.

For scientists to answer questions, Juno will have to make several passes around the planet to retrieve sufficient data for research. However, every pass the spacecraft makes through the radiation belt will take a toll on its electronics on board. As the mission will progress, the orientation of the orbits will pivot, causing the satellite to pass through more violent portions of the radiation belts.

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Jupiter and Its Moons

Spinnable maps of Jupiter and the Galilean moons.

Credit: The New York Times

NASA plans to end this space voyage just the way they did for its predecessor, by crashing it into Jupiter. The suicidal dive is scheduled to take place during the spacecraft’s 37th orbit, on Feb. 20, 2018. This is to ensure that debris from the spacecraft won’t affect Europa, which is regarded as one of the likelier places for life elsewhere in the solar system, thus preventing contamination from microbial hitchhikers from Earth.