NASA Juno Mission Extended

In this episode, NASA extends Juno’s mission to Jupiter, a mission that has shown us some amazing features of the largest planet in our solar system and is also teaching us a lot about what lies beneath those stunning cloud formations.

2827 Views | Published on 9th Jul, 2018

Hello Space Fans and welcome to another edition of Space Fan News. In this episode, NASA extends Juno’s mission to Jupiter, a mission that has shown us some amazing features of the largest planet in our solar system and is also teaching us a lot about what lies beneath those stunning cloud formations.

Earlier this month, NASA announced that it would be extending the Juno mission around Jupiter. For those who don’t know, Juno was designed to get really close to the Jovian cloudtops, so close that with each orbital pass, the spacecraft would be subjected to large doses of dangerous radiation and with each pass, the instruments onboard would degrade just a little bit.

So, this mission always had a limited shelf life, but early in the mission two Helium check valves were slow to open and out of an abundance of caution, mission planners decided to leave the spacecraft in a slightly higher and more distant orbit than was originally intended. This meant that the radiation exposure to many of the instruments onboard the Juno spacecraft would last a little bit longer.

Juno arrived at Jupiter a year ago, on July 4th 2016 and is currently circling Jupiter once every 53 days. The exciting part is when it gets really close to Jupiter and swings by the planet well inside the protective magnetic field and gets a full blast of the radiation coming off of Jupiter. WIth each pass, Junocam, the onboard visible light camera operated by the planetary society sends back some amazing images that never fail to astonish with their beauty and detail.

But Juno was sent to Jupiter to study the interior of the planet, to look deep into Jupiter's atmosphere and measure composition, temperature, cloud motions and other properties, to
map Jupiter's magnetic and gravity fields, revealing the planet's deep structure, explore and study Jupiter's magnetosphere near the planet's poles, especially the auroras – Jupiter's northern and southern lights – providing new insights about how the planet's enormous magnetic force field affects its atmosphere.

A lot of those results are still being studied but with Juno we’ve learned more about the Jovian planet than ever before.

So now that Juno’s mission will be extended, how long will it last? The mission was originally planned to have completed 37 total orbits of Jupiter, two in the 53 day checkout orbit, 34 science orbits, and one final orbit to send the craft into Jupiter’s atmosphere for a destructive end-of-mission plunge to protect the planet’s potentially life harboring moons.

Mission planners said that there was no way the spacecraft would last beyond about February 2018 (that’s last February) given the radiation the spacecraft would be subjected to, but since they left the spacecraft in the higher 53 day orbit, there has been much less degradation of the instrumentation than planned, so it looks like Juno can last much longer.

NASA also says that the radiation environment they’ve measured so far has been much less than expected and as of right now, the spacecraft is remarkably healthy and doing great.

So while they expect to complete the planned science mission this month, NASA has approved funding to continue operations of Juno until the end of fiscal year 2022. That is awesome news for fans of the giant planet as Juno promises to bring more data and insights from this magnificent gas giant.

Well that’s it for this episode Space Fans. Thanks to Deep Astronomy Patrons who keep us going and the videos posting. Thanks to all of you for watching and as always, Keep Looking Up!

Read More:
https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2018/06/juno-good-health-decision-point-missions-end-extension/
https://www.nasa.gov/feature/nasa-re-plans-juno-s-jupiter-mission

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