Scientists are preparing for a bumpy ride as they send a spacecraft perilously close to Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system. To complete its mission Nasa spacecraft must survive circuit-frying radiation storm generated by gas giant’s magnetic field
The Juno probe is due to reach the gas giant on 4 July after a five-year, 1.4bn-mile journey from Earth. To complete its risky mission Juno will have to survive a circuit-frying radiation storm generated by Jupiter’s powerful magnetic field.
Juno will study Jupiter’s composition and gravitational and magnetic field, and search for clues about the planet’s formation and the source of its raging winds. It will also deliver stunning colour photos via its JunoCam camera, which has a wide field of view geared for panoramic images.
The maelstrom of high-energy particles traveling at nearly the speed of light is the harshest radiation environment in the solar system. To cope with the conditions, Juno is protected with special radiation-hardened wiring and sensor shielding.Its all-important flight computer – the spacecraft’s “brain” – is housed in an armoured vault made of titanium and weighing almost 172kg.
Unusually for a robotic space mission, Juno is carrying passengers – three Lego figures depicting the 17th-century Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, the Roman god Jupiter, and the deity’s wife Juno. Lego made the figures out of aluminium rather than the usual plastic so they could withstand the extreme conditions of space flight.
Juno was launched into space by an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on 5 August 2011.