Juno Spacecraft In Safe Mode After Latest Jupiter Flyby, Delivers Intriguing Data On The Gas Giant


NASA's Juno Jupiter spacecraft had moved into safe mode before the crucial hours it was supposed to make a closer approach to the planet. Safe mode implies the spacecraft staying in a cautious mode after facing some hardship.

Juno is NASA's second New Frontiers medium-class planetary science mission that followed the New Horizons Pluto flyby mission.

Launched in 2011, Juno entered Jupiter's orbit on July 4 and the Oct. 19 flyby was to mark the culmination of its second orbiting around the planet since its arrival.

Rick Nybakken, project manager of Juno at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena noted that when Juno entered safe mode it still had 13 hours left to come closest to Jupiter.

"We were still quite a ways from the planet's more intense radiation belts and magnetic fields. The spacecraft is healthy and we are working our standard recovery procedure," Nybakken claimed.

In safe mode, all unneeded subsystems will be shut and instructions will be relayed by controllers. It also means Juno will not collect any data during the flyby.

"The spacecraft safe mode condition eliminated the science, but everything's okay," said Scott Bolton, Juno mission's main investigator.

However, during the safe mode, the spacecraft ensures that solar power receptivity stays uninterrupted even as instruments are turned off including nonessential components.

In the case of Juno, despite the safe mode condition, scientists do not see the spacecraft having faced any troubled radiation as the orbiter is still far from its encounter with the planet and experts rule out any permanent damage.

However, the orbiter is already plagued by a problem on the thruster and deferred one crucial maneuver. While the Juno science team is verifying the data obtained from the first close flyby on Aug. 27, the expectations are high on the next close flyby that is set for Dec.11.

Already the Microwave Radiometer instrument (MWR) has delivered critical information on the planet's cloud cover as it penetrated 250 miles beneath the clouds covering the Jupiter.

The MWR data revealed that Jupiter's magnetic fields and aurora are quite big and very powerful than thought earlier.

The Launch from Cape Canaveral

Juno has launched five years ago in 2011 from Cape Canaveral and arrived at Jupiter's orbit on July 4.

During the exploratory mission, Juno has to hover over the planet's cloud tops to stay as close as 2,600 miles. These close encounters are meant to explore the mysterious cloud cover of Jupiter and analyze the auroras, besides knowing more about the origins, atmosphere, and magnetosphere of the planet.

Juno owes its name to Roman mythology that denotes a mythical god Jupiter who keeps a blanket of clouds to hide his mischiefs from the eyes of his wife goddess Juno, who stares through the clouds to know his real nature.

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