While it seems our own planet and its inhabitants are falling apart NASA continues to do amazing things in outer space.
This time orbiting Jupiter, our solar system’s largest and oldest planet (more than 1,300 Earths could fit inside it) — after a near 5-year journey by the solar-powered Juno spacecraft, named for the Roman goddess who could see through clouds.
Last night, fittingly on July 4th, just a few minutes before midnight, NASA staff erupted in applause as their 10-year-long project to orbit Jupiter reached success. Now begins the science, the study of its mini solar system with 67 moons, some that might even contain life forms.
Congratulations again to NASA for overcoming stingy politicians, media disinterest (unless something goes wrong) and public indifference to fiercely keep on going where humankind has never gone before. (At $1.1 billion this project cost less than a third of what we spent every month on the Iraq/Afghan wars.)
NASA: “Secrets lie deep within Jupiter, shrouded in the solar system’s strongest magnetic field and most lethal radiation belts. NASA’s Juno spacecraft will plunge into uncharted territory, entering orbit around the gas giant and passing closer than any spacecraft before. Juno will see Jupiter for what it really is.”
The Washington Post: How NASA’s Juno mission could help tell us where we came from …“It is becoming increasingly clear that the formation of Jupiter was the defining event of our solar system,” Yale University astrophysicist Gregory Laughlin, who isn’t part of the Juno mission team, told The Post. “The discovery of thousands of alien solar systems over the past two decades has shown us that Jupiter, with its large mass and its relatively distant circular orbit, is somewhat unusual. We may, in fact, owe the existence of Earth’s habitability to Jupiter’s sculpting influence on the Earth’s formation, and it is imperative to peel some of the mystery from our mute, strange, and gargantuan planetary neighbor.”