The Juno mission to Jupiter has been extended to September 2025 – or how long the spacecraft can continue to operate around Jupiter.
While Juno has so far focused its attention on the giant planet alone, the expansion of the mission will include observations of Jupiter’s small and large moons with targeted observations and dense flybys planned by the moons Ganymede, Europa and Io.
This will be the first dense flight city of these moons since the Galileo mission in 1995-2003.
“One of the exciting things about the mission [extension]Said Scott Bolton, Juno’s chief investigator, who spoke at a meeting of NASA’s Outer Planets Advisory Group in September 2020, “we are going to visit the satellites and the rings. It̵
Juno has discovered Jupiter’s inner structure, magnetic field and magnetosphere and has found its atmospheric dynamics to be far more complex than scientists previously thought. The camera on board, JunoCam, has delivered a fantastic view of the gas giant world. Space photography enthusiasts expect JunoCam views of the Galilean moons to be nothing short of spectacular. Juno took long-range images of the moon Ganymede in 2020.
Juno arrived at Jupiter in July 2016, and originally the expected end of the mission was February 2018 due to how close the spacecraft was to be to Jupiter and its radiation-laden environment. The harsh “working conditions” were eventually expected to render the spacecraft unusable.
But the mission plan was changed when problems arose with the spacecraft’s main engine shortly after Juno’s arrival in Jupiter. Originally, the spacecraft was to have a close 14-day orbit around the planet. But in late 2016, mission chiefs chose not to perform a final rocket combustion for that orbit due to uncertainty about engine reliability.
Instead, a revised plan put Juno on a 53-day path. This meant that the whole mission functioned at a slower scientific pace. However, Bolton said a slower pace has been a “saving grace”, Juno has been exposed to less severe radiation, allowing the mission to operate longer than originally planned.
“I think the lesson is that we were flexible, and that’s good in missions,” Bolton said in September. “So when designing a mission, try to be flexible because you do not know which curveball you want to be thrown.”
NASA also extended the InSight mission on Mars for another two years, running through December 2022. InSight’s spacecraft and crew deployed and operated its highly sensitive seismometer, measured Marsquakes and collected data on robust tectonic activity on the red planet, and improved our knowledge of the planet’s. atmospheric dynamics, magnetic field and internal structure.
An independent review panel recommended the two mission expansions to NASA.
“The senior review has confirmed that these two planetary scientific missions are likely to continue to bring new discoveries and produce new questions about our solar system,” said Lori Glaze, director of the planetary science department at NASA’s headquarters in Washington. “I thank the members of the Senior Review Panel for their comprehensive analysis and also thank the mission teams, who will now continue to provide exciting opportunities to refine our understanding of the dynamic science of Jupiter and Mars.”
NASA says that expanded missions take advantage of the large investments in these missions, allowing continued scientific operation at a cost far lower than developing a new mission. “In some cases, the expansions allow missions to continue to acquire valuable data sets of long duration, while in other cases they allow missions to visit new targets with entirely new scientific targets,” NASA said in a press release.
Lead Image Caption: Citizen researcher Kevin M. Gill created this image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam image processing. Credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Kevin Gill.