Ex­plor­ing a plan­e­tary king

All About Space - - Jupiter -

Ex­plo­ration of Jupiter has seen much progress – not as much as Earth,

Mars or Venus, but it’s a close fourth. If a space­craft can make it past the as­teroid belt beyond Mars, then Jupiter is there to wel­come it.

Jupiter has been able to act as a valu­able grav­i­ta­tional sling­shot, also known as a grav­ity as­sist, which takes ad­van­tage of its in­tense grav­ity to al­ter a space­craft's speed or path.

The king of the So­lar Sys­tem has be­stowed grav­ity as­sists to many space­craft that aim to ven­ture to the outer re­gions of our cos­mic back­yard, such as NASA’s Pi­o­neer 10 and 11, the two Voy­ager space­craft and the New Hori­zons mis­sion, as well as NASA and the Euro­pean Space Agency’s (ESA) Ulysses and Cassini-Huy­gens. The first to meet Jupiter was Pi­o­neer 10 in 1973. It wasn’t just a sling­shot that Jupiter gave these mis­sions; it also gave them a chance to test their in­stru­men­ta­tion ahead of their des­ti­na­tion, and these tests sent back data on the gas gi­ant.

There have also been two main mis­sions sent to Jupiter, how­ever. En­gi­neers were able to place them into or­bit and gather con­tin­u­ous in­for­ma­tion on the mys­te­ri­ous work­ings of the Jo­vian king.

On 8 De­cem­ber 1995, NASA’s Galileo space­craft en­tered the or­bit of Jupiter - and for nearly eight years - col­lected re­mark­able data about the planet and its moons, in­clud­ing ob­ser­va­tions of the

Comet Shoe­maker-Levy 9 col­li­sion be­gin­ning on 16 July 1994 that re­vealed un­known de­tails about the planet’s com­po­si­tion.

The sec­ond mis­sion, still in op­er­a­tion, is NASA’s Juno. Equipped with a finely tuned in­stru­men­tal suite, Juno has been study­ing the in­te­rior and ex­te­rior of Jupiter since its or­bital in­ser­tion on 5 July 2016.

There are plans to head back to the Jo­vian sys­tem in the near fu­ture, but it is to study its Galilean moons, hope­fully re­veal­ing the pres­ence of sub­sur­face oceans. ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Ex­plorer (JUICE) and NASA’s Europa Clip­per are due to be­gin their jour­neys in June 2022 and by 2025, re­spec­tively.

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