CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., NASA on Tuesday said its Juno spacecraft entered Jupiter’s orbit after a nearly five-year, 1.7 billion-mile journey.
The spacecraft, which launched in August 2011 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., entered the orbit of the solar system’s largest planet after a 35-minute burn of Juno’s 645-Newton Leros-1b main engine, NASA confirmed late Monday. The spacecraft’s velocity was slowed to 1,212 miles per hour, which allowed the craft to be captured by Jupiter’s gravity.
“Independence Day always is something to celebrate, but today we can add to America’s birthday another reason to cheer — Juno is at Jupiter,” NASA administrator Charlie Bolden said in a statement. “And what is more American than a NASA mission going boldly where no spacecraft has gone before? With Juno, we will investigate the unknowns of Jupiter’s massive radiation belts to delve deep into not only the planet’s interior, but into how Jupiter was born and how our entire solar system evolved.”
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Juno’s main goal is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter, according to NASA. Juno is equipped with nine science instruments which it will use to observe the planet’s auroras, investigate the existence of a solid planetary core, map Jupiter’s magnetic field and measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere.
“The mission also will let us take a giant step forward in our understanding of how giant planets form and the role these titans played in putting together the rest of the solar system,” NASA said in a statement. “As our primary example of a giant planet, Jupiter also can provide critical knowledge for understanding the planetary systems being discovered around other stars.”
Official collection of scientific data will begin in October after months of testing and calibrating scientific equipment.
“Engine burn complete and orbit obtained. I’m ready to unlock all your secrets, Jupiter. Deal with it,” NASA’s Juno Mission wrote on Twitter.