Juno will reach Jupiter on Monday, the 4th of July, after traveling five years through space. The mission’s objective is to study the structure and the evolution of the planet.
Jupiter has an intense radiation environment, and Juno is not supposed to last more than a year on the orbit.
Scientists are curious on how much water Jupiter contains under the surface, as an indicator for the presence of water in the early days of the Universe. Also, it is important to know if Jupiter’s core is rocky or not, information that would shed more light on the type of planets that exist in our galaxy.
The greatest challenge is to find our planet’s place in the Universe.
Jupiter has a magnetic field 20,000 times more intense than the one on Earth. Juno will, therefore, have to avoid the impacts with other electrically charged objects that will move at very high speed.
In order to fight the magnetic field, Juno has a vault specially design to offer protection against radiations. The cube has a size of a big car, weights around 500 lbs and it’s made out of titanium. The vault contains the command and data-handling box, the units responsible for power and distribution, and other electronic components.
The central computer on Juno has a memory comparable to one of a common laptop, 256 megabytes of flash memory and 128 megabytes of DRAM. The computer type is so simple because it’s a classical model that had been used on previous NASA missions and it proved to be efficient in high-radiation environments.
Juno will be the first spacecraft to go that far away into space. The distance record was set in January when Juno surpassed the distance traveled by Rosetta on its journey to the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet.
Juno is equipped with three solar panels that will keep the spacecraft running even if it will no longer be capable of generating nuclear energy.
While on Jupiter’s orbit, the spacecraft will spin to keep balance, using a technique employed by the Pioneer 10 and 11 probes, which are believed to be still alive and cruising space.
Another way to protect Juno from radiations was to set the spacecraft on an elongated orbit, approaching the planet on its south pole and then getting as far as the Callisto orbit at 1.2 million miles away from the Jupiter.
The final of the mission will be represented by Juno’s crash into Jupiter’s atmosphere, which will provoke immediate combustion.
The scientists justify the decision to send Juno to death by the fact that the microorganisms which may have survived inside the spacecraft could contaminate Europa or other satellites of the planet. Europa is one of the places most probable to sustain alien life.
Image Source: Wikipedia
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