NASA spacecraft heading to Jupiter

8 Aug 2011

US space programme NASA’s solar-powered spacecraft Juno is on its way to Jupiter to discover information about the origin of our solar system and the planetary systems around other stars.

Juno blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Friday, in what marks the start of its five-year journey to the largest planet in our solar system.

“We are on our way, and early indications show we are on our planned trajectory,” said Jan Chodas, Juno project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

Once it arrives at Jupiter, Juno will orbit the planet’s poles 33 times and use its eight instruments to probe beneath the gas giant’s cloud cover to learn more about its origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere, and to look for a potential solid planetary core, NASA said.

“Jupiter is the Rosetta Stone of our solar system,” said Scott Bolton, Juno’s principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

“It is by far the oldest planet, contains more material than all the other planets, asteroids and comets combined and carries deep inside it the story of not only the solar system but of us. Juno is going there as our emissary – to interpret what Jupiter has to say.”

Photo: An artist’s concept of Juno at Jupiter