Jupiter space­craft de­tects prob­lem, turns off cam­era

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

A NASA space­craft cir­cling Jupiter has hit an­other snag. The space agency said Wed­nes­day that Juno de­tected a prob­lem, went into safe mode and shut off its cam­eras and in­stru­ments hours be­fore it was sup­posed to pass over Jupiter’s dense cloud tops. Juno re­booted its on­board com­puter and can com­mu­ni­cate with Earth, but its ac­tiv­i­ties are lim­ited un­til engi­neers di­ag­nose what went wrong.

“It’s too early to take a guess,” but the is­sue isn’t caused by the in­tense ra­di­a­tion belts sur­round­ing Jupiter be­cause the space­craft was far away when it en­tered safe mode, said mis­sion chief sci­en­tist Scott Bolton of the Southwest Re­search In­sti­tute in San An­to­nio. It’s the sec­ond set­back in less than a week for the so­lar-pow­ered Juno, which has been or­bit­ing the gi­ant planet since July on a $1.1 bil­lion mis­sion to ex­plore its poles, at­mos­phere and in­te­rior.

Last week, mis­sion man­agers de­cided to post­pone an en­gine fir­ing planned for Wed­nes­day af­ter a pair of valves in the space­craft’s propul­sion sys­tem didn’t work as ex­pected. NASA said the two prob­lems weren’t re­lated. The de­lay means Juno won’t swing close again to Jupiter un­til De­cem­ber. The space­craft made its first close pass in Au­gust, beam­ing back pic­tures of Jupiter’s stormy north pole, which ap­peared bluer than the rest of the planet.

Sci­en­tists con­tin­ued to pore over close-up im­ages from the first flyby, de­ter­min­ing that Jupiter’s mag­netic fields and north­ern and south­ern lights were more pow­er­ful than ex­pected. The Juno mis­sion was de­signed to fly closer to Jupiter than pre­vi­ous space­craft, com­ing within 2,500 miles of the sur­face. Some three dozen close passes are planned dur­ing the 20-month mis­sion.

Over at Mars, an ex­per­i­men­tal lan­der that was sup­posed to touch down on the red planet Wed­nes­day lost contact with ground con­trollers at the Euro­pean Space Agency. The mother ship suc­cess­fully slipped into or­bit around Mars and will study the at­mos­phere, but the fate of the lan­der was still un­known.

— AP

This un­dated artist’s ren­der­ing shows NASA’s Juno space­craft making one of its close passes over Jupiter.

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