U-S-A! NASA’s Juno Reaches Jupiter Orbit on July 4

As Americans watched fireworks illuminate the night skies on July 4, NASA’s Juno mission celebrated for another reason: a successful mission to insert a satellite into Jupiter’s orbit.

The Juno spacecraft, which will orbit Jupiter from pole-to-pole and study the gas giant from a relatively low altitude, was launched nearly five years ago, in August 2011. It hurtled through the solar system before arriving near the largest planet Monday evening, firing up its engines, and switching its orbit from the sun to the gas giant.

NASA describes the mission as follows:

The primary scientific goal of the Juno mission is to significantly improve our understanding of the formation, evolution and structure of Jupiter. Concealed beneath a dense cover of clouds, Jupiter, the archetypical “Giant Planet,” safeguards secrets to the fundamental processes underlying the early formation of our solar system. Present theories of the origin and early evolution of our solar system are currently at an impasse. Juno will provide answers to critical science questions about Jupiter, as well as key information that will dramatically enhance present theories about the early formation of our own solar system.

In 2016, the spinning, solar-powered Juno spacecraft will reach Jupiter and enter into a highly elliptical polar orbit that skims only 5000 kilometers above the planet’s atmosphere. Building on the results of previous missions, Juno will provide new information to help us determine how, when and where this giant planet formed. Answering these questions for Jupiter is essential for an understanding of the origin of the solar system itself because Jupiter contains more mass than all the other planets combined. Juno will seek these answers with instruments that can sense the hidden world beneath Jupiter’s colorful clouds while other experiments investigate the external effects that world produces.

The mission was monitored and controlled from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Engineers celebrated the final, crucial step: turning the spacecraft to face the distant sun, whence it will derive its power.

NASA has celebrated success on July 4 before. In 1997, It landed the Mars Pathfinder on July 4, 1997.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, will be published by Regnery on July 25 and is available for pre-order through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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