NASA expands Juno, transforming the spacecraft into Io Explorer, Europa and Ganymede

Zoom in / NASA’s Juno spacecraft flew directly over Jupiter’s south pole when JunoCam took this image on February 2, 2017.

NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / John Landino

NASA has announced that it will extend the missions of two interplanetary explorers launched over the past decade – the Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter and the Insight spacecraft on the surface of Mars.

Juno’s extension means that the spacecraft will now operate in the Jovian system until 2025. This will effectively switch the spacecraft from a Jupiter study mission to a full Jovian system explorer, with close flyby of many of Jupiter’s moons as well as the ring system.

Returning to the inner solar system on Mars, the InSight mission will now continue until December 2022. During these additional two years, the probe will continue to operate its seismometer to identify Martian earthquakes, as well as continue to collect detailed information about weather on the surface.

After determining that both missions have done the extraordinary science to date, an independent review panel recommended extending both missions to NASA. “The Senior Review has demonstrated that these two planetary science missions are likely to continue to bring new discoveries and generate new questions about our solar system,” He said Laurie Glaze is director of the Department of Planetary Sciences at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Excited about Juno

For us, Juno’s extended mission is the most impressive. After its launch in 2011, Juno entered a polar orbit around Jupiter in July 2016. Since that time, it has completed more than 30 orbits around the largest planet in the solar system, studying the composition of Jupiter and its magnetic field. It also survived an extremely harsh radioactive environment.

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The extension indicates that scientists and engineers believe that the spacecraft is healthy enough to continue operating and will be able to double the number of orbits in Jupiter’s system to 76. Over the next five years, the spacecraft will modify its orbit as Juno will be able to fly near some moons The most interesting buyer.

as part of A research strategy Introduced by Juneau lead investigator Scott Bolton, the spacecraft will fly 1,000 kilometers from the surface of Ganymede this summer to 320 kilometers from Europe in late 2022 and up to 1,500 kilometers from volcanically-active Io twice in 2024.

Using these flights, Juno will be able to study surface changes on Ganymede since the Voyager and Galileo missions and to investigate the three-dimensional structure of Ganymede’s magnetosphere. When getting very close to Europe, Juno should be able to identify areas where the moon’s icy crust is thick or thin and confirm the presence of liquid water below the surface. By making multiple flights close to Io, Juno will observe short-term changes in volcanic activity, which has evolved dramatically between Voyager and Galileo over the course of months.

The extended missions cost a fraction of building and launching a large interplanetary spacecraft – which often exceeds $ 1 billion – so it’s a bonus for exploring the solar system.

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