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New "Juno" Mission To Jupiter Announced 71

Riding with Robots writes "Today NASA announced it is officially proceeding with the Juno robotic mission to Jupiter. Scheduled to launch in August 2011 and reach the largest planet in 2016, the spacecraft will orbit the planet 32 times, skimming about 4,800 kilometers over the planet's cloud tops for about a year. The mission will focus on Jupiter's structure and evolution, and not on Europa or the other icy moons that may hide oceans under their surfaces — a disappointment if you ask me. Then again, all planetary missions so far have turned up amazing images and surprising scientific discoveries, and I doubt this expedition will be any different." We discussed NASA's deliberation of its short list a few days back.
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New "Juno" Mission To Jupiter Announced

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I mean... she's a fine actress, but is she a qualified astronaut?

    • I mean... she's a fine actress, but is she a qualified astronaut?

      I think I speak for all tax-payers when I say we'd be willing to waive that requirement in this case.

    • I mean... she's a fine actress, but is she a qualified astronaut?

      Rest assured, friend. I can think of one or two things she could do in zero gravity that would be *well* worth the tax money. And, for those things, she's more than qualified.

    • 'cause I hear they give away babies like free iPods. You know, they pretty much just put them in those t-shirt guns and shoot them out at sporting events.

    • by Mercano ( 826132 )
      Hey, she also played Kitty Pryde in the last X-Men movie. That qualifies her, right?
  • The mission will focus on Jupiter's structure and evolution, and not on Europa or the other icy moons that may hide oceans under their surfaces - a disappointment if you ask me.

    ... especially since we could be using those icy moons as giant particle detectors (PDF) [arxiv.org] for neutrinos and other cosmic rays.

    • The message was: [youtube.com]

      All these worlds
      are yours except
      Europa
      attempt no
      landings there
      use them together
      use them in peace

      • by aqk ( 844307 )

        WHAT???

        What are you, one of them effete Europaens?

        Do not attempt to tell an AMERICAN space agency what they can and cannot do!

        • WHAT???

          What are you, one of them effete Europaens?

          Do not attempt to tell an AMERICAN space agency what they can and cannot do!

          Why so upset?

          Is it because of outsourcing to India? [spacedaily.com]

          Oh and, you misspelled Europeans.
          And fucking.

          • by aqk ( 844307 )

            Oh and, you misspelled Europeans.
            And fucking.

            I most certainly did NOT mis-spell "Europaens", dear child.

            I have been corresponding with them for years.
            They most certainly wish that Earthlings such as you would concentrate on Juno and leave their cherished Europa alone!

            Europaens have a strong sense of irony and facetiousness, something that... umm, many of us Earthling do not seem to possess.

            As to whether I misspelled "f**king", I am totally puzzled. We do not use that word in polite society here.
            Or on Europ

  • But obviously there are are a lot of technical, financial and logistical reasons that we'd just not be privvy to.

    I'm sure they, like all of us want to go after the seeds of life.
    • Re:Shame (Score:5, Insightful)

      by narcberry ( 1328009 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @07:22PM (#25879589) Journal

      Based on what we do (don't) know, I'd say we can learn a lot more from Jupiter than Europa.

      Our understanding of Jupiter and other gas giants is really lacking. The only hope of discovery of any kind on Europa is life. But that is a really small chance, and therefore a very big gamble compared to the large set of questions we know will be answered by starting to explore Jupiter.

    • Re:Shame (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LithiumX ( 717017 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @07:25PM (#25879601)
      ...or just possibly NASA hasn't forgotten that their mandate includes far more more than chasing after the tantalizing hope of extraterrestrial life.

      Most of the researchers there are certainly interested in the potential for life, but ultimately the "possible signs of life" banners are there to keep people interested. I'd love to see more of my tax dollars go towards probing every single body in this system - not to look for what may be useful decades or centuries later, but just to see what's there - which usually gives more interesting results.

      Some day, maybe within our lifetimes, a probe will be sent to a nearby star, regardless of how many years such a mission would take. That mission will be expensive, and it will require public support. The ideal pitch is that it would be our very first foray to another star - a significant event in human history in itself. Judging by the past few decades, though, they'll have to resort to "Could There Be Life At Centauri" or similar talk. Sometimes it takes sci-fi dreams to get most people to support basic science.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        The thing is, we're so damn close on the moons of Jupiter. All we need to do is break the fucking ice and take a look. Odds are, if there's life, there's something obvious, not just unicellular (though we can easily check for that.)

        I'm sure that Jupiter has a lot to teach us, but the moons are just about the only place we've found that actually have a reasonable chance of supporting extra-terrestrial life. I sort of feel like clearing that up is the next step, then we can go back to poking things and seeing

      • The mission to gather observable planetary spectrum from other star systems was eliminated a few years back.

        That is a crying shame.

        If we could observe some spectra that indicated very high probability for life forms on another planet it would be a very exciting thing. It would even offer us a possibility to have a potential target for a such a mission that you suggest.

        I'd like to see at least that much in my lifetime.

      • I'd love to see more of my tax dollars go towards probing every single body in this system

        Fnarr fnarr.

    • Re:Shame (Score:4, Interesting)

      by khallow ( 566160 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @07:53PM (#25879819)
      Ok, why can't the seeds of life be found on Jupiter? As I see it, if Jupiter has any sort of life, then it becomes the largest biosphere (probably several orders of magnitude larger than the Earth's) in the Solar System with a strong chance of intelligent life.
      • I guess we ought to probe the sun for traces of life, then. I bet they wear shades, like, all the time.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by khallow ( 566160 )
          I detect unwarranted high levels of snark in this post. The Sun is too hot for chemical reactors and stable solid matter. Jupiter is not.
          • The question is not about temperature, but radiation. Jupiter emits high levels of radiation. So high actually, that even on the surface of Io radiation levels are lethal to life.
            • by khallow ( 566160 )
              Ok, that's a reasonable concern. My understanding is that the radiation is mostly due to some combination of the solar wind with Jupiter's magnetic field and the cloud of particles thrown out by Io's volcanos. But for anything in Jupiter's atmosphere (particularly near the equatoral regions), it'd probably be heavily shielded from that radiation by the atmosphere.
              • The radiation is not just due to interaction with the solar wind. Jupiter emits more radiation than the radiation received from the Sun. As a result Jupiter looses mass just like a star. The Wikipedia article on Jupiter has some info about this.
                • by khallow ( 566160 )

                  From the current version [wikipedia.org] of the Wikipedia article for Jupiter:

                  In spite of this, Jupiter still radiates more heat than it receives from the Sun. The amount of heat produced inside the planet is nearly equal to the total solar radiation it receives. This additional heat radiation is generated by the Kelvin-Helmholtz mechanism through adiabatic contraction. This process results in the planet shrinking by about 2 cm each year. When it was first formed, Jupiter was much hotter and was about twice its current diameter.

                  I bolded the relevant parts. First, it's heat radiation not hard radiation. Second, Jupiter isn't shedding mass. It is shrinking because it is cooling down.

        • Re:Shame (Score:4, Funny)

          by MorePower ( 581188 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @11:48PM (#25881777)
          That wouldn't work, even with shades the sunlight would be too bright. Plus it would be too hot.

          Obviously all life on the sun would have to be nocturnal.
          • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Well, the problem with that is that the bright part of the sun always faces the earth, so we'll have to send a satellite or probe to check the other side of the sun.

      • Granted we have a sample only of 1 in the BIOchemistry statistic (earth) and we might lack som knowledge on high pressure H chemistry with other elements, but we can define what are the minimum to be needed to have life : a semi permanent structure to hold the building blocks/building plans (read : something similar to DNA) to reproduce similar constructs, a way to exchange energy with the environment, a preserved separation (cellular walls) and so on. Note that I exclude under such definition polymere gl
        • by khallow ( 566160 )

          Granted we have a sample only of 1 in the BIOchemistry statistic (earth) and we might lack som knowledge on high pressure H chemistry with other elements, but we can define what are the minimum to be needed to have life : a semi permanent structure to hold the building blocks/building plans (read : something similar to DNA) to reproduce similar constructs, a way to exchange energy with the environment, a preserved separation (cellular walls) and so on. Note that I exclude under such definition polymere globule which can grow / split but it can be debatable. That does not sound compatible with our small sample of life. Granted we could be deadly wrong due to our lack of knowledge in that P/T domain of H and other elements.

          I'm unclear what your complaint is here. I don't see anything in the Jupiter environment that inherently prohibits one of these conditions.

          As for having a biosphere larger than earth youa re already SPECULATING on your own using the earth sample size. Who is saying that life form on jupiter if it EVER existed would not be simple organism miles long ? In such a case the biosphere of jupiter would indeed be comparatively small to earth. And again you speculate on on having a strong chance of *intelligent life* Beside nice s.f. books what can you give as evidence if ever life happens on jupiter there would be a greater chance of there having intelligent life ? Too much space odyssey books ? I hate it to break it to you, but A.C. Clark was not writing documentary books, you know....

          I'm speculating based on the relative sizes of Jupiter and Earth. Jupiter happens to be a lot bigger. The intelligence angle is based on a couple of assumptions. First, that a larger biosphere means more reproduction of some sort per unit time which in turn (part 2 of the assumption) means faster evolution. Second, that similar conditions would exist to encourage the dev

      • by aqk ( 844307 )

        Ok, why can't the seeds of life be found on Jupiter?

        Forget Jupiter! Let's spend more time investigating that mysterious Europe!

    • Re:Shame (Score:4, Interesting)

      by CheshireCatCO ( 185193 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @11:09PM (#25881461) Homepage

      What they're trying to answer is "How did our planets form?" It's hard to imagine any findings on Europa (even life) that would significantly out-weigh an answer to this question, although some would probably rival it in importance. But given that this mission can almost certainly address the questions it's being sent up to answer and given that the technological hurdles of studying Europa properly are so high, this is a much more sensible mission to send at the moment, in my view.

  • 32 orbits is not very much, and it seems a shame to just let it get flung in to deep space. You'd think they could do a burn and stick it into a permanent orbit somewhere to get some long(er) term studies done.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It's only going to have so much fuel, and it may need all of it to get the 32 orbits you're complaining about. Once that's gone, there's no more maneuvering. And, of course, we'll still be able to get data back as it drifts out of the Jovian system. It's not like it's going to go dead the moment that last orbit ends, you know.
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        It's not just fuel. The radiation [spacedaily.com] from Jupiter is very intense and gets worse the closer you get.
    • by umberto unity ( 1142849 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @08:07PM (#25879951)
      That's not how orbits work. After the 32nd orbit, Juno will enter its 33rd orbit. Orbits are inertial, and only require fuel for station-keeping. On this orbit, however, no orbital perturbations will cleverly keep Juno out of the worst of Jupiter's tremendous magnetic fields, which trap cosmic rays, solar wind particles, and other ionizing radiation, and so Juno's electronics will begin to degrade. No longer able to speak to us, Juno will keep orbiting until the orbital trajectory itself begins to degrade and it spirals down into the planet to burn up in the atmosphere.
      • It is probable that NASA would decide to deorbit the spacecraft at the end of mission by sending it in to Jupiter's atmosphere, rather than just let the orbit degrade. This was done to Galileo to prevent any contamination of Jupiter's moons, particularly Europa.
        • by AtariKee ( 455870 ) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @03:55AM (#25883343)
          "It is probable that NASA would decide to deorbit the spacecraft at the end of mission by sending it in to Jupiter's atmosphere, rather than just let the orbit degrade. This was done to Galileo to prevent any contamination of Jupiter's moons, particularly Europa."

          And Io. And this deorbit was particularly interesting considering that one cancelled mission plan would have maneuvered Galileo through a volcanic plume on Io.
  • Juno... (Score:4, Funny)

    by owlnation ( 858981 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @07:20PM (#25879565)
    ... or what the spiders call "Phase III" of the Grand Plan.
  • Close-up, high-resolution views of Jupiter's clouds... if there are any large gasbag-like organisms down there, this mission might see them.

  • I know the Bush administration can be rather heartless; but sending pregnant teenagers into space? I just pray the first mission isn't scheduled until after January 20th.

    • I know the Bush administration can be rather heartless; but sending pregnant teenagers into space? I just pray the first mission isn't scheduled until after January 20th.

      The Vice President is the chairman of the board for NASA. The current VP is our old friend Dick Cheney. I think that may be a slight clue.

  • "Then again, all planetary missions so far have turned up amazing images and surprising scientific discoveries, and I doubt this expedition will be any different."

    Not all planetary missions have turned up amazing images. Roughly half [wikipedia.org] of the Mars missions failed to reach the planet and become operational. So those didn't complete anything at all amazing. Even of the ones that did, I doubt you could say that ALL of them resulted in amazing images and surprising discoveries. Unless, of course, you count
  • Er, not to deflate the coolness of this mission (and it is a damn cool mission), but Juno was selected in 2005. All that this is saying is that it hasn't been derailed, although their wording obscures this. See the mission website [wisc.edu].

    Once again, NASA's press office shows that it's keen on issuing a hyped release about any old thing.

  • before going to Jupiter. Space exploration is all well and fine, but they are dropping the ball on the weather satellites.

  • by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @12:46AM (#25882089) Journal

    So I took a few seconds to RTFA and I found (or didn't find):

    It uses SOLAR PANELS to power this thing all the way to Jupiter. That'll beat the previous record holder (I think the DAWN mission to Vesta and Ceres) for use of solar power away from the sun. TFA says that other than a 10 min period in earth's shadow during a flyby it will always be in sunlight.

    1) So does that mean it will be in a sun synchronous polar orbit at Jupiter? Won't that compromise the data collection opportunities it has? (It'll never be able to look "straight down" with the sun at its back).

    I couldn't find any details about how it intends to enter and then adjust its jupiter-centric polar orbit. I see no mention of using gravity assist WITHIN the jupiter system using any of the galilean satellites to reduce the amount of delta V for insertion (and adjustments). Is this because they are going into a polar orbit and won't be in the plane of the satellite's orbits? Nor did I see any mention of some fancy aero-braking (like the Mars orbiters use). (Of course I guess ion drives (like those used in DAWN) wouldn't be practical because the probe would have to "linger" too long in Jupiter's radiation belts while it slowly shed velocity).

    2) So will they be using some standard chemical propellents with a long storage time (like Cassini)? Will a large part of the spacecraft be fuel or does its "unique highly elliptical" orbit not require too much delta V to enter?

    Anyway, sounds like a cool mission, that won't cost too much or take too long to get there (uses solar power so no expensive nukes, uses 1 gravity assist and a medium size Atlas booster). Hopefully the camera has a high enough resolution to take a picture of Medusa! (Please see Arthur C. Clarke's "Meeting with Medusa").

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      1) So does that mean it will be in a sun synchronous polar orbit at Jupiter? Won't that compromise the data collection opportunities it has? (It'll never be able to look "straight down" with the sun at its back).

      Do you think a 767 at cruising altitude casts a significant shadow on the surface of the Earth? At these kinds of distances the effect is too diffused to even notice.

  • Oh hell yes. Juno we're going to Jupiter?!
  • The way this summary is written implies that NASA's selection of missions in the other article has something to do with Juno. It doesn't. New Frontiers missions are picked periodically. Juno was picked in 2003; NASA still hasn't picked one of the current batch yet.

  • Quite a fall from the JIMO mission. Disappointing they had to downgrade to this tried & true orbiter, but U need to fund mortgage bailouts.

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