Cre­ma­tion to Kill Bac­te­ria

The Juno craft is to burn up in Jupiter’s thick cloud cover to avoid pol­lut­ing the moons around the gas gi­ant.

Science Illustrated - - SPACE/ SOLAR SYSTEM -

Af­ter two years of ob­ser­va­tions of Jupiter, the Juno probe will be sent down into the gas planet’s at­mos­phere in 2018.

The probe, which NASA launched in 2011, is only 4,200 km from Jupiter’s sur­face in the clos­est section of its or­bit. From there, Juno has re­vealed that the core is large and frayed, that the at­mos­phere is lay­ered, and that ex­treme hur­ri­canes cause havoc by the gas gi­ant’s poles.

The pow­er­ful ra­di­a­tion belts around Jupiter are grad­u­ally de­stroy­ing Juno’s in­stru­ments, and it is un­known how long they can en­dure the rough treat­ment. Orig­i­nally, the probe was sup­posed to have com­pleted 37 or­bits, but due to a rocket en­gine error, NASA has changed its plans, so it will in­stead com­plete 12 slightly more re­mote or­bits. Hence, the probe is sub­jected to less ra­di­a­tion, which could ex­tend the mis­sion be­yond its sched­uled end in July 2018. No mat­ter the fi­nal dead­line, Juno will be sent into Jupiter’s at­mos­phere in the end, so the craft – which might be con­tam­i­nated with bac­te­ria from Earth – does not col­lide with the moon Europa, etc., which could sup­port life.

Af­ter two years of constant ob­ser­va­tions of Jupiter, the Juno probe in July 2018 heads towards the gas gi­ant’s red-hot at­mos­phere to end its mis­sion.

At a speed of 208,000 km/h, the craft en­ters the gases of the at­mos­phere. The en­counter sets fire to the probe, which vi­brates out of con­trol.

Like a me­teor, the burn­ing craft will burst, and Juno ends its mis­sion to Jupiter as a shoot­ing star high up in the gas gi­ant’s at­mos­phere.

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