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Bonus Ticket pic of the Week: NASA's Juno begins its long trip to Jupiter (video)

August 6, 2011 | 10:00 am

NASA Juno Launch 8-5-11

The Juno journey began Friday morning at 9:25 Pacific atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral.

Watch the launch here, including dramatic shots from the ascending rocket.



Juno's journey will end sometime in late 2017 when the 4-ton solar-powered craft makes a suicidal plunge into the thick, cloudy atmosphere of the solar system's largest planet.

Already this morning, Juno has flown by the moon about 250,000 miles away.

You think it takes a long time to fly across the U.S.? It will take Juno another approximate 1,822 days (five years) to reach Jupiter, a distance of 1,740,000,000 miles, give or take 1 million. At speeds from a pokey 33,000 m.p.h. to 133,000 m.p.h. (or 36 miles per second).

Arriving in the summer of 2016, just before the next national party conventions after next year's party conventions, Juno is scheduled to go into a polar orbit of Jupiter for about one year.

Jupiter is about 1,300 times larger than Earth. Jupiter has local hurricanes that are twice the size of Earth. The International Space Station orbits Earth every 90 minutes. Juno will complete one elliptical orbit of Jupiter every 11 days or so.

The schedule calls for 33 orbits while Juno's eight scientific instruments peer beneath the planet's deep clouds to measure its structure, atmosphere, magnetosphere and whether the gas giant even has a planetary core.

"Jupiter," says Scott Bolton, the mission's principal investigator, "is the Rosetta Stone of our solar system. It is by far the oldest planet, contains more material than all the other planets, asteroids and comets combined, and carries deep inside it the story of not only the solar system but of us. Juno is going there as our emissary -- to interpret what Jupiter has to say."

When its orbital work is complete, Juno will be directed to plunge down through whatever is there and radio back readings as long as it can.


Historic photo: Atlantis' return to Earth -- as seen from space

The personal life of an American astronaut in space: What's it really like?

Atlantis is off for last time and the U.S. space shuttle program is up in smoke

More Juno videos over here.


NASA the gas giant jupiter as seen from the passing Cassini spacecraft in 2001

 -- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Gary I. Rothstein / EPA (Juno launches Aug. 5); NASA (Jupiter as seen through the eye of the passing Cassini spacecraft in 2001).