Juno successfully enters Jupiter's orbit

After a five year journey from Earth, Juno the solar-powered spacecraft squeezed through a narrow band, skimming Jupiter’s surface, avoiding the worst of both its radiation belt and its dangerous dust rings.
The Juno satellite, which left Earth five years ago, had to fire a rocket engine to slow its approach to the planet and get caught by its gravity. A sequence of tones transmitted from the spacecraft confirmed the braking manoeuvre had gone as planned. Receipt of the radio messages prompted wild cheering at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "All stations on Juno co-ord, we have the tone for burn cut-off on Delta B", Juno Mission Control had announced. "Roger Juno, welcome to Jupiter".

The spacecraft's name comes from Greco-Roman mythology. The god Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief, but his wife, the goddess Juno, was able to peer through the clouds and see Jupiter's true nature. Scientists plan to use the spacecraft to sense the planet's deep interior. They think the structure and the chemistry of its insides hold clues to how this giant world formed some four-and-a-half-billion years ago.

It fired its main engine, slowing its velocity, and allowing it to get captured into Jupiter’s hefty orbit. After it was complete, jubilant scientists fronted a press conference, and tore up a “contingency communication strategy” they said they prepared in case things went wrong. “To know we can go to bed tonight not worrying about what is going to happen tomorrow, is just amazing,” said Diane Brown, a project manager from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Scott Bolton, principle investigator of the Juno mission told his colleagues: “You’re the best team ever! We just did the hardest thing NASA has ever done”. Now the spacecraft will orbit the planet once every 53 days until October 14, when it will shift to a tighter 14-day orbit and after about 20 months of learning everything it can about Jupiter’s interior and its atmosphere, it will eventually succumb to the harsh environment and plunge into the planet’s crushing centre.

The $1.1 billion Juno will now use its sensors to explore Jupiter for clues about how our solar system was formed billions of years ago. “If we want to understand how planets form and how solar systems form, we really have to start with Jupiter”, said Steve Levin, a Juno project scientist. Juno will take a series of dives beneath Jupiter’s intense radiation belts where it will study the gas giant from as close as 2,600 miles over the planet's cloud tops. Scientists warned that the project was risky and may not succeed. Juno will be the first spacecraft to study Jupiter from such a close distance.
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