Thank you, NASA, for the July 4 gift.
“It is no small thing to spend the better part of a decade building a spacecraft to survive the harsh radiation of Jupiter, launch it across 1.7 billion miles of space over five years, and then drop it precisely where you want around a planet 2.5 times more massive than all the other planets in the solar system — combined,” says Ars Technica.
Juno hit a target just a few tens of miles across.
Mission managers hope to get 37 orbits out of Juno over the next 20 months before radiation breaks down its electronics and propulsion system.
Juno’s main goal is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter. As our primary example of a giant planet, Jupiter can provide critical knowledge for understanding the planetary systems being discovered around other stars, NASA says.
Before the spacecraft fails entirely, engineers will put Juno into a slowly degrading orbit that eventually will force it to plunge into the planet. That’s so none of Jupiter's potentially life bearing moons, such as Europa, will be contaminated by microbes from Earth.