After performing several adjustments to its current course, NASA’s Juno space probe is expected to reach Jupiter July 4. The unmanned probe is part of a long string of spacecrafts sent by the U.S. space agency to study our neighboring planets.
NASA recently announced that Juno performed an abrupt engine burn move Feb. 3 to adjust its course to the gas giant. According to engineers, the solar-powered craft burned about 1.3 pounds of fuel during the procedure.
As of Wednesday, the spacecraft had 51 million more miles to travel to Jupiter. We know that it is currently heading to its destination at 0.7 mph.
Scott Bolton, one of the leaders of the Juno mission team and head of the Southwest Research Institute in Texas, said that the tiny probe would have to undergo a second trajectory adjustment before its encounter with Jupiter on July 4. Bolton explained that such adjustments are routine procedures to ‘fine-tune’ the planet’s orbit around the sun.
Juno is expected to reach its target on July 4 (11:18 EDT), or July 5 (03:18 GMT). Scientists said that the second adjustment would occur on May 31.
The space probe, which cost the U.S. government $1.1 billion, started its journey in the summer of 2011. The craft is expected to orbit Jupiter and obtain rich data on the planet’s magnetic field, thick atmosphere, and gravitational tug.
Scientists said that the data to be collected by Juno could help them better understand the gas giant’s history and influence on the nearby inhabitants of the solar system. NASA scientists said that Juno would orbit the planet 33 times before it ends its mission.
Jupiter’s magnetic field will be mapped from a 3,100 distance every two weeks, scientists added. The probe will be helped to fulfill its mission by the 18,698 cells on its solar panels. Solar power alone will help the craft zip past Mars and the Kuiper Belt on its way to Jupiter.
Juno is the latest solar-powered unmanned spacecraft to break the distance record across the solar system. On Jan. 3, the probe hit 493 million miles. The previous record holder was Europe’s Rosetta probe with a 492 million mile distance.
But since Jupiter is so far, about five times farther from its host star than our planet, the craft’s solar panels are expected to receive 25 times less sunlight when it reaches the gas giant. All probes that have so far managed to reach Jupiter did so on nuclear power.
Image Source: Wikimedia