Juno spacecraft orbits Jupiter

AFP July 06,2016 - 10:59 AM
A 1/5th size scale model of NASA’s Juno spacecraft is seen at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. /AFP

A 1/5th size scale model of NASA’s Juno spacecraft is seen at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
/AFP

Miami – NASA celebrated a key triumph on Tuesday as its $1.1-billion Juno spacecraft successfully slipped into orbit around Jupiter on a mission to probe the origin of the solar system.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California erupted in cheers as the solar observatory entered its aimed-for orbit around the biggest planet in our cosmic neighborhood at 11:53 p.m.

“We are there. We are in orbit. We conquered Jupiter,” said Scott Bolton, NASA’s principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

“It is almost like a dream coming true.”

Juno launched five years ago from Cape Canaveral, Florida and has traveled 1.7 billion miles (2.7 billion kilometers) since then.

Its arrival marks the start of a 20-month mission, during which scientists hope to find out more about how much water Jupiter holds and the makeup of its core in order to figure out how the gas giant — and other planets including Earth — formed billions of years ago.

“This amazing universe that we see, how does that work and how did it begin?” asked NASA project scientist Steve Levin.

“That is one of the amazing things about working for NASA and working on big projects. You get to answer big questions.”

The spacecraft is equipped with nine science instruments, including a camera, which prior to orbit captured a video of Jupiter and its moons gliding around it at different speeds.

“In all of history we’ve never really been able to see the motion of any heavenly body against another,” said Bolton, after showing the video during a post-orbit press conference for the first time.

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TAGS: Juno, Jupiter, Miami, NASA, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Southwest Research Institute

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