NASA's Juno spacecraft, launched August 5, 2011, with a mission to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter, has traveled 478 million miles since the launch, approximately 25% of the total distance it would cover between launch and arrival at Jupiter. As a planned maneuver on August 30, it fired its engine successfully for about 30 minutes to refine its trajectory which will help the spacecraft in setting up earth flyby gravity assist maneuver in October of next year. Its course of maneuvers will complete on September 4 when engine shall be fired again for the similar duration.
According to NASA officials, this maneuver will set Juno towards Earth's orbit, when it will utilize Earth's gravity for a "slingshot" and spacecraft will head towards Jupiter. Such technique is being used because Juno's rocket is not powerful enough to boost it directly to Jupiter. Juno will arrive Jupiter in July 2016 and will orbit it 33 times for about a year, thereby de-orbiting into Jupiter.
This $1.1 billion mission managed by NASA's JPL will help in determining how much water is there in Jupiter's atmosphere, which in turn will help in deciding which planet formation theory is correct or if new theories are needed. Juno's science instruments will analyze Jupiter's magnetic and gravity fields and, hopefully, reveal planet's deep structure. Such analysis is expected to help scientists understanding how our solar system was formed. It shall also check Jupiter's atmosphere to measure composition, temperature and will attempt to determine whether the planet's core is solid or gaseous.
Source: Juno mission
Featured image: NASA/JPL
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