NASA launched a 2.7-billion km voyage to Jupiter
NASA has launched a 2.7-billion km voyage to
Jupiter to discover the secrets behind the largest planet in the solar system on August 05, 2011 at 11.25 A.M. from Cape
Canaveral, Florida. The unmaned $1.1 billion Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in 2016 which will study the
planet's core, atmosphere, magnetic field and auroras, scientists said. It is one of NASA's most ambitious missions.
The aim of Juno mission
The aim of the 1.7 billion-mile (2.7 bn km) voyage, was to learn more
about how the solar system was created and unlock the secrets that have
remained a mystery until now, reported NASA.
Juno's orbits have been spaced with precision to cover the entire
planet. The result, scientists believe, will be the first comprehensive
mapping of Jupiter's gravitational and magnetic fields. Scientists will also be able to determine whether there is a solid core
underneath Jupiter's massive bands of gas. That discovery will help to
reveal the timeline of the formation of the solar system. Juno will also measure the planet's magnetic and gravity fields.
The spacecraft was launched aboard the Atlas V551, the most powerful
rocket in NASA's inventory after the retirement of the space shuttle.
The 3.5 tonne spacecraft unfurled three 29-foot long solar panels to
provide power to Jupiter, five times farther from the sun than Earth is.
The probe is equipped with various instruments to analyze the planet's
atmosphere, gravitational field and magnetic field. Juno will circle
Jupiter in a polar orbit that allows it to scan almost the entire surface of the planet over time.
In addition to its special scientific potential, the Juno mission is
special in other ways. For one, it is the first spacecraft to travel
such a long distance propelled by solar energy, rather than nuclear power, which has been the norm. For example, the distance from the Earth
to the sun is a trip of 93 million miles (150 million km), a distance
astronomers call 1 astronomical unit (AU). Juno will be about five times as far when it is at Jupiter.
The spacecraft is carrying a special camera dedicated to education
and public outreach. Its images will be released to the public, including students and amateur astronomers, for processing and study.
"This camera's purpose is to give the general public the chance to see
what it's like to be a participant in a space mission," said Candy Hansen, Juno co-investigator at the Planetary Science Institute in
A plaque honoring the 17th century Italian astronomer Galileo
Galilei, who was the first to sight the four largest moons of Jupiter,
will be flying aboard the spacecraft. There will three small LEGO figurines
representing Galileo, as well as the Roman god Jupiter (known in Greek
as Zeus) and his wife Juno (Hera in Greek mythology).
and all nine planets of the solar system as seen by the space
explorers. Starting at the top-left corner is the Sun followed by
the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.
Jupiter the solar system's largest planet
is believed to be the first planet to have formed in the solar system, and likely captured many elements and gasses that were not used
in formation of the sun. Jupiter is the size of 1,300 Earths combined and contains most of the
material left in the solar system after the solar system was formed about 4.6 billion years ago. It has at least 63 moons, one bigger than
Roughly four and a half billion years ago, the sun formed when a giant
cloud of gas and dust collapsed under its own gravity. The sun sucked up
virtually all of it, but there were leftovers. Those leftovers formed
the solar system, and most of them wound up inside Jupiter. Jupiter isn't just a forbidding ball of
gas, scientists believe, to the origin of the solar system — and Earth.
Bolton credited Galileo, a NASA spacecraft that visited Jupiter in 1995,
and other robotic spacecraft that have flown by the planet for laying
down the groundwork that makes Juno's quest possible.