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.
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.