NASA’s Juno spacecraft entered Jupiter’s orbit with a roar in July of this year. This Saturday, August 27, the space probe will be the closest it has ever been to the largest planet in the Solar System.
At 8:51 a.m. EDT (5:51 a.m. PDT, 12:51 UTC), Juno will hover around 4,200 km (2,500 mi) above Jupiter, traveling at 208,000 kph (130,000 mph) in relation to the planet. While 35 other close flybys are set for the space probe during its prime mission, this will be the closest so far.
Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio says Juno’s entire scientific armory can now actually focus on Jupiter, since it's already made its critical orbit insertion: "back then we turned all our instruments off to focus on the rocket burn to get Juno into orbit around Jupiter.”
As Juno prides itself for being the first to get this close to Jupiter, this mission will definitely yield many more firsts.
"No other spacecraft has ever orbited Jupiter this closely, or over the poles in this fashion," says project scientist from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Steve Levin. "This is our first opportunity and there are bound to be surprises. We need to take our time to make sure our conclusions are correct."