"For five years we've been focused on getting to Jupiter. Now we're there, and we're concentrating on beginning dozens of flybys of Jupiter to get the science we're after," said Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton, at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, in a statement.
Whereas Juno's science instruments were powered down during its dramatic orbital insertion, the mission will be wide awake when the spacecraft reaches perijove on Aug. 27.
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"We're in an excellent state of health, with the spacecraft and all the instruments fully checked out and ready for our first up-close look at Jupiter," added Juno project manager Rick Nybakken, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
Juno is currently carrying out its first of two 53.4-day orbits. Known as "capture orbits," these orbits are by their nature very elongated (or eccentric). When the two capture orbits are complete, Juno will once again fire up its engines to slow itself once more to complete its orbital dance with the gas giant, shortening its orbit to just 14 days. These shorter orbits will allow Juno's science mission to begin.
But that doesn't mean we have to wait over 100 days before we start seeing photos from Jupiter's orbit. The mission team is planning on opening Juno's "eyes" during close approach later this month as a trial run to check out the spacecraft's instrumentation before it begins its grueling science campaign deep inside Jupiter's radiation belts.
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Juno's mission is to reveal the science behind Jupiter's interior, including precision measurements of the huge planet's gravitational field and global magnetism. It's also going to have an incredibly close view of the gas giant's thick atmosphere, revealing its composition and how it likely evolved. Ultimately, Juno hopes to answer how Jupiter was formed and, by extension, provide an insight to the evolution of the solar system.
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