Solar Powered Spacecraft Juno starts a 5 year Journey to Jupiter
>By Christopher Weaver
An unmanned solar powered craft atop an Atlas 5 rocket has taken to the skies today on a long 5 year mission to Jupiter. The rocket left the earth at 12:25 pm EST after an hour long delay due to a helium leak that was quickly fixed. This will be the first time a solar powered vessel has traveled so far from the sun — the payoff should be immense due to the undiscovered secrets that Jupiter holds.
This spacecraft will make a total of 33 orbits around the giant planet before crashing down into it. The many instruments mounted on the craft will help scientists answer many previously unanswerable questions like:
- What is Jupiter composed of?
- Does it have a rock core or is it composed of compressed gases all the way through?
- Why are there colored bands around Jupiter and what exactly causes this?
- What is the cause of the giant Red Storm that has raged on Jupiter for hundreds of years?
- How much water is in the atmosphere?
This is a revolutionary type of mission and yet it is not the first of it’s kind. Juno is the second New Frontier class mission with New Horizons being the first. New Horizons was launched in 2006 on a 9 year mission to the dwarf planet Pluto, scheduled to arrive in 2015. It is interesting to note that both of these crafts will reach their mark within a year of each other. This ought to give those familiar with space plenty of work in those coming years.