NASA’s robotic Juno spacecraft wil spend another three years probing the inside of Jupiter, giving the mission more time to meet its primary science objectives after concerns over the health of the probe’s engine prevented it from dropping into a lower, shorter orbit around the solar system’s biggest planet.
Speeding through the outer reaches of the solar system nearly 3.8 billion miles from Earth, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has awakened from a five-and-a-half month slumber, ready for a second act after its 2015 flyby of Pluto with a New Year’s Day encounter with a primordial world set to become the most distant object ever explored.
Pioneering spacecraft from NASA and the Japanese space agency promise to reveal two unexplored asteroids later this year, officials said Wednesday, beginning surveys that will culminate in daring descents to capture samples for return to Earth, where eager scientists await a hands-on look at the specimens.
Concerns about the health of the Juno spacecraft’s main engine have compelled NASA managers to keep the research probe in its current arcing, high-altitude orbit around Jupiter, a decision that will delay the full science return from the $1.1 billion mission but should still allow it to meet all predetermined objectives.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft made a high-speed pass less than 3,000 miles over Jupiter’s turbulent clouds Thursday, taking dozens of pictures, measuring radiation and plasma waves, and peering deep inside the planet’s atmosphere, but officials still have not cleared the orbiter’s main engine for a planned maneuver to position the probe in its intended science orbit.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft will stay in its current long-period orbit around Jupiter until at least February, and perhaps longer, as engineers study balky valves inside the science probe’s propulsion system and an unexpected computer reboot that interrupted key functions of the orbiter earlier this month.