One of the biggest events for space enthusiasts happening this year is almost a go. This July 4th, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will arrive at its destination after a 5-year journey and begin it’s missions to study the largest planet in our Solar System: Jupiter.
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Before getting down to work, the Juno spacecraft will have to ‘lock’ onto Jupiter into what it called a Polar Orbit. This is the most risky park of the entire mission and NASA will be watching with all eyes and hands on deck.
As Juno approaches its planetary destination, Jupiter’s gravity will accelerate the spacecraft up to 241,000 km/h (150,000 mph). This will make Juno one of the fastest man-made objects ever – fast enough to fly around Earth in 9 minutes
After reaching g a maximum speed of 266,000 km/h (165,000 mph), Juno will fire its engines in an attempt to slow itself down: With Juno weighing 3,000 pounds, and moving at 215 times the speed of sound, this is no simply feat. Its engines will fire for 35 whole minutes, burning 17,600 pounds of fuel. If all goes according to plan, this will push Juno into Jupiter’s orbit slowly, where it will remain for 18 months, giving scientists a close-up look at Jupiter’s magnetic and gravitational fields.
If anything goes wrong, the spacecraft will miss Jupiter, and the $1.13 billion USD spacecraft will be lost to deep space, with no chance of contact.
NASA will have one chance to get it right. The world will watch, and you can watch history on NASA TV or you can watch it right here: the Engine burning maenouver will begin at 11:18pm ET on July 4th. You can also watch NASA getting ready for the event starting around 10:30 ET, when ground control will begin monitoring Juno’s instrumentation and then wait anxiously.