A solar-powered spacecraft is spinning toward Jupiter for the closest encounter with the biggest planet in our solar system.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft will fire its main rocket engine late Monday to slow itself down from a speed of 150,000 miles per hour and slip into orbit around Jupiter, Associated Press reported.
The spacecraft is traveling through a hostile radiation environment and rings of debris and dust, “making for very serious hazards,” Juno chief scientist Scott Bolton was quoted as saying.
But Juno should be able to withstand the harsh conditions because it’s “built like an armored tank,” he said.
The spacecraft’s camera and other instruments were switched off for arrival, so there won’t be any pictures at the moment it reaches its destination.
But NASA released a series of images taken last week during the approach, showing Jupiter glowing yellow in the distance, circled by its four inner moons.
Scientists also have promised close-up views of the planet when Juno skims the cloud tops during the 20-month, US$1.1 billion mission.
Unlocking Jupiter’s history may hold clues to understanding how Earth and the rest of the solar system developed, the report noted.
– Contact us at [email protected]