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Everything you need to know about NASA’s awesome Juno mission

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David Cornish
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"Welcome to Jupiter!"

The words uttered by one of NASA's Juno mission commentators as their plucky little deep-space probe reached it's final destination - an orbit around the mysterious gas giant, Jupiter. 

Scientists and engineers whooped and hugged - all it was missing was a soaring score from John Williams. Because this mission is a big deal for NASA.

Here's what you need to know.

When did Juno launch?

When did Juno launch?

The $1.1 billion Juno mission actually set off from Earth back on 5 August 2011.

Once it escaped our own gravitational pull, it set off on a five-year trip through the solar system, passing back by Earth for an orbital "speed boost" back in October 2013. 

On 4 July 2016, it was travelling in the region of 165,000 mph relative to Earth - making it the fastest man-made object in history. It then fired its main engine to slow down and come into an orbit around Jupiter. 

What does the Juno Spacecraft do?

What does the Juno Spacecraft do?

Juno is basically a big titanium vault full useful instruments, strung together between three nine-metre-long solar panels, each containing 18,698 individual solar cells (there's not much solar energy all the way out near Jupiter).

These instruments will be used to measure Jupiter's gravity, magnetic field and atmosphere, in addition to taking the most accurate images ever recorded of the planet with its ultraviolet, infrared and JunoCam colour cameras. 

What's it actually going to do?

What's it actually going to do?

Now that Juno has arrived in its 14-day orbit of Jupiter, it will start studying the big gas giant in more detail than ever before, making 33 "science orbits" over the course of a year.

We don't actually know all that much about Jupiter. It's massive, it's full of gas, it has some pretty weird storms going on, but it's hoped that Juno will help uncover some mysteries about how Jupiter was formed - and thus, gain an understanding of how our own solar system came about.

Jupiter is something of a super-powered planet, giving off massive doses of radiation and electromagnetic signals. After a year of orbit, plucky little Juno will be pretty fried out, at which point NASA will issue a command to make the probe plunge into Jupiter's gassy cloud for a final close-up report.

If you want to hear more about the mission...

...watch this NASA panel get really excited about what they've achieved.

Well done team. Now, how's that secret Moon base coming along?

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David Cornish

Shortlist.com’s esteemed Tech Editor. David has a keen interest in video games, Star Wars and stuff that runs on batteries.

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