NASA’s Juno is currently circling Jupiter.

NASA’s Juno is currently circling Jupiter.

On July 4, NASA’s Juno spacecraft touched down on Jupiter after a five-year journey from Earth. During its 20-month mission, it will circle Jupiter around thirty times before being discarded. In addition to being the first space mission to fly as close as 2,600 miles to Jupiter’s cloud tops, Juno is also the first solar-powered spacecraft to travel the furthest from Earth. It will also be the first to use 3D-printed titanium parts in flight and will capture the highest-resolution images of Jupiter in history.

As scheduled, Juno descended to 2,900 miles above Jupiter’s cloud tops upon reaching the planet before being propelled into orbit by gravity. On August 27, Juno will make another near approach to Jupiter based on its orbit; at that time, its cameras and equipment will start collecting data. Juno will oscillate between being close to Jupiter and being far away due to its orbit cycle. This is a tactic to prevent the spacecraft from being destroyed by radiation damage that might be too great from Jupiter. It will, however, eventually sustain damage, which is why, at the conclusion of its mission, it will be destroyed by a suicide dive onto Jupiter.

The Juno mission’s scientists will investigate the formation of planets in the early solar system. The spacecraft will study the magnetosphere, deep atmosphere, inner structure, and origins of Jupiter. At five times the distance from the sun and 300 times the mass of Earth, Jupiter is simply a gigantic ball of gas. NASA claims that by studying Jupiter, we will be able to learn more about the formation and evolution of planetary systems in our galaxy and beyond, as well as the history of our solar system. This mission will cost $1.13 billion USD in total.

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