Self-Destruction Of $1.4 Billion Spacecraft At Jupiter Scrubbed By NASA As It Returns More Stunning Images

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Three of Jupiter’s largest moons—Io, Europa and Ganymede—can be visited by NASA’s Juno probe at the moment within the Jupiter system after its imminent “death dive” was postponed for 4 years. 

Last week it was reported that Juno witnessed an asteroid or comet slam into Jupiter and disintegrate in its ambiance.

Previously deliberate to plunge into Jupiter’s clouds after finishing its thirty fifth and ultimate orbit on July 30, 2021, Juno’s prolonged mission will see it carry out shut flybys of the three moons by 2025. 

In orbit of Jupiter since July 4, 2016, the 66 x 15 ft. spacecraft has simply accomplished its thirty second perijove (shut flyby) of the enormous planet and returned a stack of incredible new images

Juno’s prolonged mission will see it orbit Jupiter an extra 42 instances, throughout which it’ll carry out shut flybys of Jupiter’s north polar cyclones, Ganymede, Europa and Io.

It will even conduct the primary in depth exploration of the faint rings encircling Jupiter. Photographed by Voyager 1 in 1979 and by the Galileo orbiter within the Nineteen Nineties, the Jovian ring system largely mud from two of its smaller moons, Amalthea and Thebe.

“Since its first orbit in 2016, Juno has delivered one revelation after another about the inner workings of this massive gas giant,” mentioned principal investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “With the extended mission, we will answer fundamental questions that arose during Juno’s prime mission while reaching beyond the planet to explore Jupiter’s ring system and Galilean satellites.”

Part of NASA’s New Frontiers program of medium-sized planetary science spacecraft, Juno is a flagship mission that may now transfer from a mission centered on learning the enormous planet’s gravity and magnetic fields to a full system-explorer. 

Here’s what Juno goes to do and when throughout its prolonged mission section: 

  • Flyby of Ganymede inside 600 miles/1,000 km—June 7, 2021.
  • Flyby of Europa inside 200 miles/320 km—September 29, 2022. 
  • Flybys of Io inside 900 miles/1,500 km—December 30, 2023 and February 3, 2024.
  • End of mission—September 2025.

“The mission designers have done an amazing job crafting an extended mission that conserves the mission’s single most valuable onboard resource—fuel,” mentioned Ed Hirst, the Juno undertaking supervisor at JPL. “Gravity assists from multiple satellite flybys steer our spacecraft through the Jovian system while providing a wealth of science opportunities.” 

However, Juno will solely escape loss of life for therefore lengthy.

Come September 2025—with nowhere close to sufficient gas to flee Jupiter’s gravity and so proceed on a journey by the cosmos—its orbit will quickly decay till it enters Jupiter’s higher ambiance, heats-up and burns. 

Such a “death plunge” is critical as a result of an off-course Juno might theoretically crash into one in all Jupiter’s moons and contaminate it with the atmosphere with microbes from Earth.

Those moons are exactly what Juno’s prolonged mission is designed to check.

The information Juno collects throughout its prolonged mission will even assist NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) plan their subsequent two (and probably three) missions to Jupiter and its moons: 

China has additionally been discussing two missions to the Jovian system— a Jupiter Callisto Orbiter (JCO) and a Jupiter System Observer (JSO), one in all which might launch in 2030 and arrive in 2036. It might embody a touchdown on Jupiter’s small moon Callisto.

Wishing you clear skies and huge eyes. 

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