JUST IN — NASA says it has received a signal from 540 million miles across the solar system, confirming its Juno spacecraft has successfully started orbiting Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system.
“Welcome to Jupiter!” flashed on screens at mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. The Juno team cheered and hugged.
“This is phenomenal,” said Geoff Yoder, acting administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
The probe had to conduct a tricky maneuver to slow down enough to allow it to be pulled into orbit: It fired its main engine for 35 minutes, effectively hitting the brakes to slow the spacecraft by about 1,212 miles per hour (542 meters per second).
Juno was launched nearly five years ago on a mission to study Jupiter’s composition and evolution. It’s the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter since Galileo. Galileo was deliberately crashed into Jupiter on September 21, 2003, to protect one of its discoveries — a possible ocean beneath Jupiter’s moon Europa.
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