NASA launches 2.7 bn-km voyage to JupiterPublished On: Sat, Aug 6th, 2011 | Mars / Photo Gallery | By BioNews
NASA has launched a 2.7-billion km voyage to Jupiter that will try to discover the secrets behind the largest planet in the solar system.
The unmaned $1.1 billion Juno spacecraft blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 11.25 a.m. Friday.
The aim of the 1.7 billion-mile (2.7 bn km) voyage, was to learn more about how the solar system was created and unlock the secrets that have remained a mystery until now, The Telegraph reported quoting NASA.
The spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in 2016 which will study the planet’s core, atmosphere, magnetic field and auroras, scientists said. It is one of NASA’s most ambitious missions.
Once it reaches its target it will be the furthest-travelled solar-powered probe and the fastest man-made object in history after travelling at 160,000 mph, the daily said.
Senior space agency officials have spent the past 10 years planning the mission, which is part of its New Frontiers planetary expeditions and is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge, California.
The unmanned satellite observatory is named after the ancient Roman goddess who spied through clouds on her husband Jupiter and is the first NASA probe to orbit Jupiter since the Galileo mission ended in 2003.
With the end of the space-shuttle programme, NASA has faced criticism that its approach to manned space exploration is aimless but this year it has turned its attention to unmanned exploration, particularly to deep space.
“Jupiter holds secrets about how the solar system formed,” said NASA’s Scott Bolton, the mission’s chief scientist.
“We want to get the list of ingredients that produced the recipe for planets. That will give us guidance of what happened in that early time that eventually led to us.
“If we want to go back in time and understand where we came from and how the planets were made, Jupiter holds this secret,” he said.
The spacecraft was launched aboard the Atlas V551, the most powerful rocket in NASA’s inventory after the retirement of the space shuttle.
The 3.5 tonne spacecraft unfurled three 29-foot long solar panels to provide power to Jupiter, five times farther from the sun than Earth is, the newspaper added.
Jupiter is the size of 1,300 Earths combined and contains most of the material left in the solar system after the solar system was formed about 4.6 billion years ago. It has at least 63 moons, one bigger than Mercury.