Juno mission: Jupiter probe on course for orbit manoeuvre
The US space agency (Nasa) says its Juno probe is on course to go into orbit around the Planet Jupiter.
The satellite is described as healthy and ready for what scientists concede will be a risky manoeuvre.
Juno has to execute a precise rocket firing to slow itself sufficiently to get captured by the giant world’s gravity.
If it succeeds, researchers should get their best ever view of what lies beneath Jupiter’s stormy clouds.
The 35-minute orbit insertion burn – timed to to start at 03:18 GMT (04:18 BST) on Tuesday – is sure to jangle the nerves of everyone here in mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.
If the engine fails to fire at the right time or for an insufficient period, this $1.1bn (£800m) venture will simply fly straight past Jupiter and into the oblivion of deep space.
Juno will not have its main dish pointed at Earth during the braking procedure, so the mission team will have to follow events via a series of simple tones sent back through the probe’s low-gain antenna.
Rick Nybakken, Juno’s project manager, said the probe had to thread itself on to a very accurate trajectory to achieve its goal.
“What we’re targeting is a space that’s tens of km wide. We’re going to hit that within 1.2 seconds after a journey of [2.8 billion km]. That tells you just how good our navigation team is,” he told reporters.
“We need to get into orbit tonight and I’m very confident we will.”
The scientists must sit on their hands, though. The event is so far away, radio messages take 48 minutes to cross the vastness of space. Juno has to do everything on its own.
Assuming everything goes to plan, Juno’s mission is to look down on the giant world to work out what it is made from and how it is put together.
We should finally discover whether it has a solid core or if its gas merely compresses to an ever denser state all the way to the centre.
We should also gain new insights on the famous Great Red Spot – the colossal storm that has raged on Jupiter for hundreds of years. Juno will tell us how deep its roots go.
what will juno tell us?..my bet is that life can exist on jupiter..because we found something that when connected with something else and when applied with fantasy physics we might detect some salty residue that means we have could have had life on jupiter but dont count on it..or am i being cynical? 😉