…at the launch of NASA’s Juno spacecraft, that’s where! 🙂
NASA is holding yet another Tweetup event at Kennedy Space Center next week, focusing on the launch of the long-awaited Juno mission to Jupiter. Even before I left for the Tweetup for the Atlantis flight I had put my name in the hat for the Juno event, and although I was put on a waiting list initially, I ended up getting onto the list some days afterward! So this will be two major launches in less than a month for me. Unbelievable.
I can’t wait!
I wasn’t sure if I was going to go, admittedly, because I had just gone for the big event with the Atlantis launch, but since Juno really applies to the theme of my site I felt I would be amiss to not attend if I had the opportunity. Plus I think there’s a different feel here… where Atlantis was a historic event whose meaning surpassed the actual physicality of the launch itself (even though it was fantastic), this is a purely scientific venture, an exploration event of planetary proportions. Juno will be a dedicated spacecraft meant for one thing only: the study of Jupiter, our solar system’s largest and most influential planet. This isn’t a trip into orbit and back, either. We will be watching an object leave our world entirely, to head out into deep space, never to return. That’s a very different type of thing to be a part of, in my opinion.
Plus Bill Nye (the “Science Guy”) will be there too, along with lots of mission team members from JPL and NASA. Pretty cool!
Here’s some more info about Juno:
- Spacecraft scheduled to launch between Aug. 5 and Aug. 26, 2011 (I’m hoping for the 5th!!!)
- Five-year cruise to Jupiter, arriving July 2016
- Spacecraft will orbit Jupiter for about one year (33 orbits)
- Mission ends with de-orbit into Jupiter
Launching from Earth in 2011, the Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in 2016 to study the giant planet from an elliptical, polar orbit. Juno will repeatedly dive between the planet and its intense belts of charged particle radiation, coming only 5,000 kilometers (about 3,000 miles) from the cloud tops at closest approach.
Specifically, Juno will…
- Determine how much water is in Jupiter’s atmosphere, which helps determine which planet formation theory is correct (or if new theories are needed)
- Look deep into Jupiter’s atmosphere to measure composition, temperature, cloud motions and other properties
- Map Jupiter’s magnetic and gravity fields, revealing the planet’s deep structure
- Explore and study Jupiter’s magnetosphere near the planet’s poles, especially the auroras – Jupiter’s northern and southern lights – providing new insights about how the planet’s enormous magnetic force field affects its atmosphere.
Wow. That’s a lot of stuff. So even though Juno won’t “exactly” be like Jupiter’s Cassini (not with just a year to accomplish all those things!) it will undoubtedly return tons of unprecedented images and data from its position around Jupiter. The hardest part will be waiting for it to get there!
Stay tuned to LITD and my Twitter feed (@JPMajor) next week for up-to-date news about what’s happening around the launch site – and, of course, the launch itself!