The world is about to get a closer look at Jupiter than it ever has.
NASA’s Juno Probe is bound for a Fourth of July encounter with Jupiter after a five year and a nearly 2 billion mile journey through the solar system.
As Juno approaches Jupiter’s harsh radiation environment, it will fire its main engine to slow down and then slip into orbit around the planet. It will orbit the planet a total of 37 times and come as close as 3,100 feet above Jupiter’s cloud tops. NASA officials said they hope the mission will help scientists learn more about Jupiter’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.
“It’s a one-shot deal,” mission chief scientist Scott Bolton from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, said Thursday. “Everything is riding on it.”
Named after the Roman ruler of the gods and heavens, Jupiter is larger than all the other planets combined.
“Jupiter is a planet on steroids. Everything about it is extreme,” Bolton said during a briefing for reporters from NASA headquarters in Washington.
NASA is hoping Juno’s rendezvous with Jupiter will yield data similar in importance to the information gathered last year when the New Horizons craft reached Pluto.
“At this time last year our New Horizons spacecraft was closing in for humanity”s first close views of Pluto,” Diane Brown, Juno program executive, said in a statement. “Now, Juno ispoised to go closer to Jupiter than any spacecraft ever before to unlock the mysteries of what lies within.”