NASA has a special way to celebrate the 240th Birthday of America.
Today, Fourth of July, NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter after an almost five-year trip through space. Tonight Juno will perform an orbit insertion maneuver, a 35-minute burn of its main engine, to slow the spacecraft by about 1,212 miles per hour (542 meters per second) so it can be captured into the gas giant’s orbit.
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The NASA TV coverage of orbital insertion begins on July 4 at 10:30 pm EDT. The burn of Juno's main engine ignites at 11:18 pm EDT. Obviously this is cutting edge space exploration and there is no guarantee that the orbit insertion will work as planned.
"We are ready,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "The science team is incredibly excited to be arriving at Jupiter. The engineers and mission controllers are performing at an Olympic level getting Juno successfully into orbit. As Juno barrels down on Jupiter, the scientists are busy looking at the amazing approach science the spacecraft has already returned to Earth. Jupiter is spectacular from afar and will be absolutely breathtaking from close up.”
Once in Jupiter’s orbit, the spacecraft will circle the Jovian world 37 times during 20 months, skimming to within 3,100 miles (5,000 km) above the cloud tops.
Juno is the first spacecraft that will orbit the poles of Jupiter, providing new answers to ongoing mysteries about the planet’s core, composition and magnetic fields.
The Juno spacecraft carries a bunch of sensors including gravity sensors, magnetometers, microwave radiometer, JEDI, JADE, Wave, UVS, JIRAM and a visual camera (JunoCam). With the JunoCam the spacecraft will take close-up photos of Jupiter. Juno measurements are 66 feet in diameter and 15 feet in height.
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