By Science Editor
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Juno, a more than $1.1 billion mission, will be arriving in Jupiter’s orbit this evening at about 10:18 pm central daylight time (CDT). This arrival will cap a 5 year trip to reach the largest planet in the solar system.
Launched on August 5, 2011, Juno will have traveled 1.8 billion miles when it arrives in Jupiter’s orbit this evening. However, the spacecraft didn’t take a direct flight. During that time and distance,
[i]t looped around the inner solar system and then swung by Earth, using our planet as a gravity slingshot to hurtle toward the outer solar system
and into the grips of the gas giant, according to Popular Mechanics.
After it enters the Jovian planet’s orbit at 130,000 miles per hour, the fastest of any spacecraft to have entered the orbit of a planet in NASA history, Juno will be flying about 2,600 miles above the clouds of Jupiter.
NASA will be covering the event live tonight. Here’s the schedule:
Monday, July 4 – Orbit Insertion Day
Noon — Pre-orbit insertion briefing at JPL
10:30 p.m. — Orbit insertion and NASA TV commentary begin
Tuesday, July 5
1 a.m. — Post-orbit insertion briefing at JPL
And here will be the places to watch:
Finally, this will not be the end of the mission. The mission is expected to last at least until February of 2018. The purpose of the mission is to understand how Jupiter was created and how it has evolved over the past 4.5 billion years. By studying the solar system’s largest planet, scientists will learn more about the evolution of the solar system itself and gain a deeper understanding of how planetary systems form and develop here in the milky way, our parent galaxy, and in other solar systems in other galaxies.
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