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Friday, 10 June 2016

NASA's Juno probe inches closer to Jupiter

WASHINGTON: With its scheduled arrival at the largest planetary inhabitant in our solar system on July 4, NASA's Juno mission is now less than a month away from Jupiter. The mission is now 26 days and 17.8 million kilometres away from Jupiter, the US space agency said in a statement on Thursday. On the evening of July 4, Juno will fire its main engine for 35 minutes, placing it into a polar orbit around the gas giant, it added. Giant Jupiter lies in the harshest
radiation environment known, and Juno has been specially designed to safely navigate the brand new territory. 
"We're currently closing the distance between us and Jupiter at about four miles per second," said Scott Bolton, principal investigator for Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "But Jupiter's gravity is tugging at us harder every day and by the time we arrive we'll be accelerated to 10 times that speed -- more than 40 miles per second (nearly 70 kilometres per second) - by the time our rocket engine puts on the brakes to get us into orbit," Bolton added. The Juno mission team is using these last weeks to evaluate and re-evaluate every portion of the Jupiter orbit insertion (JOI) process, finding very low probability events and running them to ground - determining which, if any, need to be addressed. Two scenarios have been identified for further work. The first is a variation in how Juno would come out of safe mode ,a protective mode if the spacecraft were to encounter an anomaly or unexpected condition. A second item involves a minor software update. "We are in the last test and review phases of the JOI sequence as part of our final preparations for Jupiter orbit insertion," Rick Nybakken, project manager of Juno for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, pointed out. 

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