News24

Nasa spacecraft begins 5-year trip to Jupiter

2011-08-05 20:45

Cape Canaveral - A sun-powered robotic explorer named Juno rocketed away on Friday on a five-year journey to Jupiter, the solar system's most massive and ancient planet.

Hundreds of scientists and their families and friends watched from just a few miles away, cheering and yelling, "Go Juno!" as the Nasa spacecraft soared into a clear midday sky atop an unmanned rocket.

It was the first step in Juno's 2.7 billion kilometre voyage to the gas giant Jupiter, just two planets away but altogether different from Earth and next-door neighbour Mars.

Juno is solar powered, a first for a spacecraft meant to roam so far from the sun. It has three huge solar panels that were folded for launch.

Once opened, they should each stretch as long and wide as a tractor-trailer. Previous spacecraft to the outer planets have relied on nuclear energy.

With Juno, scientists hope to answer some of the most fundamental questions of our solar system.

Comments
  • John - 2011-08-05 21:10

    By the way, the headline is incorrect - this is not the "first solar-powered" spacecraft ever launched. You'd think the press would be more accurate (and less dramatic) with their headlines.

  • Duanne - 2011-08-06 11:26

    Wow, "First Solar Powered Spacecraft" . . . Space stuff may be nerdy or whatever, but please tell me people aren't THIS ignorant . .

  • Jabulani Pilime - 2011-08-06 14:52

    how does it fly-i do understand how the jet and propeller stuff works(something to do with pressure).somebody explain to m hw this solar thing works.

      Tiens - 2011-08-08 17:03

      The solar panels aren't for propulsion, it's for powering the cameras and computer and radio transmitters on board. For propulsion the initial boost to get it away from Earth and on the way to Jupiter, the Atlas 5 rocket is used (check out http://www.spaceflightnow.com/atlas/av029/atlas.html) and a Centaur upper stage will provide thrust for maneuvring and slow-down so Juno can get into orbit around Jupiter.

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