Monday, July 04, 2016

NASA - When Juno Probe Reaches Jupiter

"NASA promising July 4 big bang — and lots of science — when Juno probe reaches Jupiter" PBS NewsHour 6/29/2016


SUMMARY:  On Independence Day NASA's Juno spacecraft (NASA home page) reaches the largest planet in our solar system and is expected to transmit pictures the 1.8 billion miles back to Earth.  But even more interesting than pictures, scientists hope to collect tons of data to help them understand Jupiter's formation — and our own.  Science correspondent Miles O'Brien joins William Brangham.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  The holiday weekend is often a time for big blockbuster movies, and it's safe to say that concept has not been lost on NASA.

The space agency has just released a kind of movie trailer about what it hopes will be a nail-biting night on the Fourth of July.  That's when the Juno spacecraft, which is going to fly closer to Jupiter than any spacecraft has before, is supposed to reach its destination.  But getting to Jupiter comes with its own risks.

This is how NASA describes it in the trailer.

MAN:  It's a monster.  It's unforgiving.  It's relentless.  It's spinning around so fast its gravity is like a giant slingshot, slinging rocks, dust, electrons, whole comets.  Anything that gets close to it becomes its weapon.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  OK, that got my attention.

Our science correspondent Miles O'Brien is here to spell out some more.

MILES O'BRIEN, Science Correspondent (NewsHour):  William, I should have brought the popcorn.



We have been to Jupiter before.  NASA's been there a couple of times.  What's different this time?

MILES O'BRIEN:  Well, depending on how you count, we have had about 10 missions to Jupiter.

Most of them have been flybys, Voyager, Pioneer notable among them, New Horizons as well.  We of course had the orbiting mission of Galileo, which began in the mid-'90s into the early 2000s, which did most science around Jupiter and its moons.

And that's the big treasure trove of data.  And all the while, the Hubble telescope has captured a lot of interesting data from Jupiter.  And in particular, back in 1994, you may recall when the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet, that fragment comet, struck Jupiter, Hubble got some amazing images of those impacts.

But all off this is skin-deep.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  So what are we trying to learn this time?

MILES O'BRIEN:  Well, there's a lot of things we can learn from Jupiter.

Full documentary (1:04:22)

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