We were reminded today, in dramatic fashion, that NASA is still open for business and leading the world in space exploration. At 12:25 p.m. EDT, we launched the Juno spacecraft from the Space Coast of Florida on its five-year journey to Jupiter, putting NASA on a mission to yet another new frontier. Our future in space exploration is bright and holds many such cutting-edge science missions that will help us better understand our solar system and an ever-increasing array of challenging destinations where humans might travel.
Juno will speed past our moon in less than a single day before it begins its trek of 1,740 million miles to reach the largest planet in our solar system. Those astounding distances and speeds are hard for us to fathom, but they are the kind of numbers our dedicated scientists and navigators work with every day to get the job done.
Juno will orbit Jupiter’s poles 33 times. Its color camera will provide unprecedented close-up images of the planet, including the first detailed glimpse of the planet’s poles. Juno’s eight science instruments will peer through our mysterious neighbor’s atmosphere and tell us more about what goes on in its atmosphere and magnetosphere. They’ll also help us determine if there is a solid core to this gas giant.
Juno will power its systems using solar energy. This is the farthest out we’ve yet sent a spacecraft using this type of energy source. It’s just one of many things we’ll be looking at as we make the most of the spacecraft’s journey to help refine technology for future exploration missions.
With its four large moons and numerous smaller ones, Jupiter is like its own miniature solar system and, indeed, it could have become a star if it had been larger, since it shares a similar composition.
The largest planet in our neighborhood is about to reveal its secrets, and everything Juno finds will help us understand more about the origins and evolution of our solar system. This is exciting stuff. The kind of thing that inspires young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The kind of thing that NASA has become known for — and the kind of thing we’re going to keep doing for decades to come.
NASA has many more exciting missions coming up just in the next six months, to the moon and Mars, and to study our own planet in even more depth. In addition, we’ll be bringing American companies on-line to transport cargo and crews to the International Space Station, and developing a new heavy lift rocket and capsule to explore deep space. We have started a remarkable new chapter in our nation’s story of exploration; enjoy the journey.
Keep tabs on Juno’s progress and the sights it sees along the way at:
An Atlas V rocket launches with the Juno spacecraft payload from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Friday, August 5, 2011. The Juno spacecraft will make a five-year, 400-million-mile voyage to Jupiter, orbit the planet, investigate its origin and evolution with eight instruments to probe its internal structure and gravity field, measure water and ammonia in its atmosphere, map its powerful magnetic field and observe its intense auroras. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)