August 13, 2013
Jupiter Mission Reaches The Halfway Point
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
"Juno's odometer just clicked over to 9.464 astronomical units," said Juno Principal Investigator Scott Bolton, of the Southwest Research Institute. "The team is looking forward, preparing for the day we enter orbit around the most massive planet in our solar system."
An astronomical unit (AU) is a unit of measure used by space engineers and scientists to make the massive distances involved in exploring our solar system more manageable. The AU is 92,955,807.273 miles long, or the distance between the Earth and the Sun. Juno has already traveled 9.464 AU, which translates to 879,733,760 miles. When this milestone was reached, Juno was 34.46 million miles from Earth. This October, Juno will reach its next milestone as it flies past Earth in search of a little extra speed.
"On Oct. 9, Juno will come within 347 miles (559 kilometers) of Earth," said the mission's Project Manager Rick Nybakken of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). "The Earth flyby will give Juno a kick in the pants, boosting its velocity by 16,330 mph (about 7.3 kilometers per second). From there, its next stop Jupiter."
Juno is scheduled to arrive at Jupiter on July 4, 2016, at 7:29 pm PDT.
Juno’s mission started with a launch on August 5, 2011. Once the spacecraft reaches Jupiter, it will circle the planet 33 times, from pole to pole. The collection of eight science instruments on board will probe beneath the gas giant’s obscuring cloud cover, allowing the science team to learn about Jupiter's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere, and look for a potential solid planetary core.
In Greek and Roman mythology, the god Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his bad behavior. His wife, Juno, was able to peer through the clouds to discern Jupiter’s true nature – making the name of this spacecraft extremely appropriate.