NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft is fast heading to Jupiter. The first of the two planned maneuvers has been executed to adjust its flight plan, setting the stage for its arrival in the solar system’s largest planet in five months.
The first of the two planned maneuvers took place Feb. 3.
"This [will] fine tune Juno's orbit around the sun, perfecting our rendezvous with Jupiter on July 4th at 8:18 p.m. PDT," reported principal investigator Scott Bolton in an official release.
During the burn, Juno’s thrusters ate about 1.3 pounds of fuel to change the spacecraft speed by about 0.7 mph. Juno was around 51 million miles from Jupiter as well as roughly 425 million miles from Earth during the maneuver, according to NASA.
The next maneuver to correct its trajectory is scheduled on May 31.
Taking off on Aug. 5 in 2011, the Juno spacecraft is poised to orbit Jupiter 33 times and skim within 3,100 miles above its cloud tops every 14 days.
The flyby will offer a peek beneath the planet’s cloud cover and probe its aurorae to know the gas giant’s structure, origins, evolution, and atmosphere. Jupiter’s northern and southern lights will particularly show how its magnetic force field influences its atmosphere.
Juno’s name is derived from classic Roman mythology. The god Jupiter formed a curtain of clouds around himself to hide mischief. His wife Juno peered through the cloudy veil, revealing his real nature. Planet Jupiter is surrounded by a thick layer of clouds.
The spacecraft carries three solar panels that measure 30 feet long and collectively hold over 18,600 individual solar cells. The expansive light-amassing gear is needed for powering the spacecraft in the dark setting around Jupiter.
In January, Juno became spaceflight history’s farthest moving solar-powered mission. It was a record previously held by the comet-probing Rosetta spacecraft of the European Space Agency, which reached 492 million miles away from Earth in 2012.