NASA approves three-year extension for Juno mission orbiting Jupiter – Spaceflight Now

NASA approves three-year extension for Juno mission orbiting Jupiter – Spaceflight Now

Artist’s idea of the Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s robotic Juno spacecraft wil spend one other three years probing the within of Jupiter, giving the mission extra time to fulfill its main science targets after issues over the well being of the probe’s engine prevented it from dropping right into a decrease, shorter orbit across the photo voltaic system’s largest planet.

The resolution by NASA managers to increase the Juno mission was anticipated, after a evaluate board in April decided that the spacecraft was returning invaluable science knowledge, with all its main programs and devices working usually.

The exception to Juno’s favorable well being report is the principle engine, which managers elected to not use as supposed in late 2016 to maneuver the spacecraft right into a decrease orbit that will have taken the orbiter as soon as round Jupiter each 14 days. Instead, officers determined to maintain Juno in an elongated 53-day orbit.

The important engine efficiently fired throughout Juno’s orbit insertion burn round Jupiter on July four, 2016, however engineers detected a problem with valves inside Juno’s engine throughout a checkout earlier than a follow-up burn a number of months later supposed to maneuver into the mission’s remaining science orbit. Officials most popular to not danger a malfunction and canceled the engine burn, protecting Juno in its preliminary insertion orbit.

That resolution meant Juno wanted extra time to assemble the mission’s required science knowledge. The spacecraft’s devices gather most of their knowledge whereas passing near planet as soon as each 53 days, not the 14-day cadence initially deliberate.

Scientists deliberate to have Juno full 32 of the 14-day science orbits by means of February of this 12 months, when its prime mission was scheduled to be over and floor controllers deliberate to deliberately crash the spacecraft into Jupiter’s ambiance, avoiding the potential of contaminating one in all Jupiter’s probably liveable moons.

With the longer orbit, Juno has accomplished 12 science flybys thus far, with the 13th close-up method scheduled for July 16. It will take an additional three years to attain all 32 science flybys.

NASA has agreed to fund the Juno mission by means of fiscal 12 months 2022, the company introduced Wednesday. Mission operations are set to finish in July 2021, with continued knowledge evaluation by means of 2022.

Artist’s illustration of the Juno spacecraft’s elongated 53-day orbit round Jupiter. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“With these funds, not only can the Juno team continue to answer long-standing questions about Jupiter that first fueled this exciting mission, but they’ll also investigate new scientific puzzles motivated by their discoveries thus far,” stated Thomas Zurbuchen, affiliate administrator for NASA’s science mission directorate in Washington. “With every additional orbit, both scientists and citizen scientists will help unveil new surprises about this distant world.”

“This is great news for planetary exploration as well as for the Juno team,” stated Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno, from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “These up to date plans for Juno will enable it to finish its main science objectives.

“As a bonus, the larger orbits allow us to further explore the far reaches of the Jovian magnetosphere — the region of space dominated by Jupiter’s magnetic field — including the far magnetotail, the southern magnetosphere, and the magnetospheric boundary region called the magnetopause,” Bolton stated. “We have also found Jupiter’s radiation environment in this orbit to be less extreme than expected, which has been beneficial to not only our spacecraft, but our instruments and the continued quality of science data collected.”

One latest discovery by Juno confirmed that lightning in Jupiter’s turbulent ambiance is extra frequent close to the planet’s poles, not at equatorial latitudes. On Earth, lightning within the tropics is extra prevalent that at larger latitudes.

In 1979, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft detected lightning in Jupiter’s ambiance by way of radio alerts emitted by discharges. But the radio alerts picked up by Voyager 1 didn’t match these emitted by lightning on Earth.

“In the data from our first eight flybys, Juno’s MWR (microwave radiometer) detected 377 lightning discharges,” stated Shannon Brown, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and lead writer of a paper printed Wednesday in Nature. “They had been recorded within the megahertz in addition to gigahertz vary, which is what you will discover with terrestrial lightning emissions.

“We think the reason we are the only ones who can see it is because Juno is flying closer to the lighting than ever before, and we are searching at a radio frequency that passes easily through Jupiter’s ionosphere,” Brown stated in a press release.

Scientists assume warmth from the solar close to Jupiter’s equator warms the planet’s swirling clouds simply sufficient to inhibit convection. Most of Jupiter’s warmth, which drives the convection that produces lightning, is generated from throughout the planet, not from the solar, which delivers 25 occasions much less vitality to Jupiter than to Earth.

“Jupiter lightning distribution is inside out relative to Earth,” stated Brown. “There is a lot of activity near Jupiter’s poles but none near the equator. You can ask anybody who lives in the tropics — this doesn’t hold true for our planet.”

This picture of Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot and surrounding turbulent zones was captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft. Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran processed this picture utilizing knowledge from the JunoCam imager captured April 1 throughout Juno’s 12th science flyby of Jupiter. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstadt/Sean Doran

Other early results from Juno recommend Jupiter’s inside is extra advanced than beforehand thought, with a bigger, probably dissolved core, and bands that stretch deeper into the ambiance than predicted.

Many scientists thought Jupiter was “relatively boring and uniform” inside earlier than Juno arrived, Bolton stated in a science briefing final 12 months.

“For decades, scientists have assumed this, that if we drop below the cloud tops, below where the sunlight reaches, that pretty much Jupiter was all uniform inside, and it really didn’t matter where you looked, it would all look the same,” Bolton stated Thursday. “And what we’re finding is anything but that is the truth. It’s very different and very complex.”

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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