Juno Spacecraft Performs Record-Breaking Close Approach to Jupiter
After the grueling five-year journey to the giant gas planet, Juno successfully completed the closest flyby to the gas planet last Aug. 27, the first of 36 flybys that will be performed all throughout the mission.
Juno was sent to Jupiter five years ago and the solar-powered spacecraft survived the journey to space. However, before it can perform any experiments and a flyby, it also successfully completed a dangerous 35-minute engine burn maneuver to enter Jupiter's orbit.
A few weeks ago, Juno was in sync with Jupiter's orbit reaching the farthest point, in preparation for its closest flyby of the planet. And on Aug. 27, the spacecraft finally completed its record-breaking flyby of Jupiter. The flyby is the first of 36 orbital flybys to be performed by the spacecraft.
The closest approach occurred at exactly 6:44 am at about 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) above Juno's clouds. Juno is the first spacecraft to approach Jupiter up close and also the first to perform a flyby on top of Jupiter's clouds, giving it a new perspective to capture images of the giant gas planet.
"Early post-flyby telemetry indicates that everything worked as planned and Juno is firing on all cylinders," Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a press release.
Juno's mission started when it successfully entered the planet's orbit last July 4 and it is expected to last until February of 2018 after performing a total of 36 flybys. The approach executed last Aug. 27 is the first for Juno with all its scientific equipment activated.
"We are getting some intriguing early data returns as we speak," Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute, said in a statement. "It will take days for all the science data collected during the flyby to be downlinked and even more to begin to comprehend what Juno and Jupiter are trying to tell us," Bolton added.
Juno is equipped with the JunoCam that captures images of Jupiter. The images taken from the recent will be released in the following weeks; the scientific community and the public are anticipating the latest and closest images ever taken of Jupiter. This is due to the fact that any data gathered, including the images, will be the first at this distance. This means no one has ever seen images of Jupiter this close.