JUNO, WELCOME TO JUPITER

Juno is a solar powered spacecraft that launched from Earth in August of 2011. Its time in space has reached 5 years, which included an Earth flyby a year into its voyage that would slingshot the craft off to the outer solar system where it would ultimately rendezvous with Jupiter. 

There are a lot of questions to be answered about Jupiter: What's beneath those monstrous clouds? Is there a solid core or not? What about the cloud structures themselves? What's up with those beautiful bright auroras at the poles? How can storms like the red spot last for centuries?

Juno is going to shed some light on these questions with its arsenal of different science instruments

 

The craft will fly over the top of Jupiter's pole and swing south around the planet. This orbit will help Juno avoid a majority of the gigantic harmful radiation belts while also keeping the craft in the sun for its solar power. A polar orbit also gives many advantages for mapping the entirety of the planet. 

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 
Image credit: http://nasa.tumblr.com/

Image credit: http://nasa.tumblr.com/

 

A critical part of the Juno mission was transferring the spacecraft into Jupiter's orbit by means of a 35 minute engine burn. This was referred to as Jupiter-Orbital-Insertion. Since Juno is too far away to be controlled second by second from earth (a 45min delay in telemetry from the craft to Earth), these tasks were automated. 

 

This means that there wasn't much anyone could do but wait to hear the confirmation tones. During this waiting period the room was silent. I felt uncomfortable just to cough. One could say the wait was quite aggravating.

 

But soon enough the wait was over and the tension was cut. Juno had completed its maneuver within one second of the pre-burn estimations. In other words, Juno absolutely crushed it. Uproar and applause were everywhere. It was one of those moments where the stranger next to you becomes your best friend.

 

Shortly after the confirmation of Juno's successful orbital entry was a post-briefing. The air in the room was full of electric joy the entire time. You can watch the full briefing below(and you'll also see me in the crowd).

 

During the post-briefing Juno Principal Investigator, Scott Bolton declares, "NASA did it again!" And later, "We conquered Jupiter."

 

First act of business for Juno Project Manager, Rick Nybakken was to tear up the contingency communication procedure. Following that victorious display, Rick Nybakken gives an equally victorious and beautiful line, "Tonight through tones Juno sang to us, and it was a song of perfection."