It took Juno five years to get there, but it finally happened: NASA’s probe reached the distant planet on July 4th, making it safely into Jupiter’s orbit.
DON’T MISS: This is the Galaxy Note 7
As others celebrated July 4th with barbecues and fireworks, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California were hard at work making sure that Juno’s hookup with Jupiter went according to plan. On the other hand, in case of error, there was little they could have done to correct any issues. As Wired reports, there’s a 49-minute delay in communication between the engineers and the probe, so it’s not like swift reactions are possible.
Juno had to turn on its engines to slow down precisely 2,609 miles away from Jupiter, and it needed a 35-minute burn to achieve the correct speed to enter the planet’s orbit. Any mistake and the probe would have continued her journey through space, missing the orbit and wasting five years of work that went into this NASA expedition.
Juno entered the planet’s orbit at 11:54 PM EDT, with just a few minutes to spare for the event to have taken place on July 4th.
NASA’s work is just starting, as Juno will collect all sorts of data from the planet. The probe’s nine instruments are protected by a titanium vault intended to shield them from intense radiation, but they’ll soon start collecting data about the planet and beam it back to Earth. With any luck, NASA should soon release gorgeous imagery from Jupiter soon. Here’s a small taste of what you can expect: