Saturday, February 18, 2017

Juno Mission Update: Orbiter To Stay In Safer, More Distant Orbital Loop

To be clear -- NASA will complete all the expected science at Jupiter, but will do so over a loner time frame.

Due to the valve glitch we discussed earlier, it will be safer for the spacecraft not to trim its orbit -- in short, not to fire its engines -- until the final dip, some years from now.

There appears to be some real concern about funding for the later stages of the mission -- under the new Administration -- since the longer orbital period will entail a multi-years-longer ground-based crew allocation. So some of the later passes may become mission extender budget items. Here's the full release -- and a bit -- form the agency that gave us Hidden Figures:

. . . .NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter, which has been in orbit around the gas giant since July 4, 2016, will remain in its current 53-day orbit for the remainder of the mission. This will allow Juno to accomplish its science goals, while avoiding the risk of a previously-planned engine firing that would have reduced the spacecraft’s orbital period to 14 days.

“Juno is healthy, its science instruments are fully operational, and the data and images we’ve received are nothing short of amazing,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The decision to forego the burn is the right thing to do – preserving a valuable asset so that Juno can continue its exciting journey of discovery.”

Juno has successfully orbited Jupiter four times since arriving at the giant planet, with the most recent orbit completed on Feb. 2. Its next close flyby of Jupiter will be March 27. . . .

Smiling, as I too twist through a clear, bright and copper colored celestial-flight focused morning -- preparing a huge winter bar-b-que. . . [but of course, there is no such thing as climate change. . . on a 70 degree February Saturday in Chicago. Wow. Just. . . wow.]


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