Halfway through a week with a long weekend at the end – that’s something.
In the meantime, we have news from Jupiter! NASA’s Juno probe just completed its closest approach to the gas giant. Excerpt:
NASA’s Juno mission successfully executed its first of 36 orbital flybys of Jupiter today. The time of closest approach with the gas-giant world was 6:44 a.m. PDT (9:44 a.m. EDT, 13:44 UTC) when Juno passed about 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) above Jupiter’s swirling clouds. At the time, Juno was traveling at 130,000 mph (208,000 kilometers per hour) with respect to the planet. This flyby was the closest Juno will get to Jupiter during its prime mission.
“Early post-flyby telemetry indicates that everything worked as planned and Juno is firing on all cylinders,” said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
There are 35 more close flybys of Jupiter planned during Juno’s mission (scheduled to end in February 2018). The August 27 flyby was the first time Juno had its entire suite of science instruments activated and looking at the giant planet as the spacecraft zoomed past.
“We are getting some intriguing early data returns as we speak,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “It will take days for all the science data collected during the flyby to be downlinked and even more to begin to comprehend what Juno and Jupiter are trying to tell us.”
I’m wondering about the construction of the Juno probe; from what I understand, the gas giants throw off all kinds of electrical and radioactive hell across the spectrum. Juno must have some pretty serious shielding to survive it.
But survive it has, and in the near future it will be giving us close looks at the Jovian giant’s upper cloud layers. But as a once and former biologist who keeps current in that field, I’d frankly be more interested to see some of the Jovian moons up close. Europa, for instance; it would be downright fascinating to see what, if anything, is in that water ocean under Europa’s ice pack.
Some folks disparage the ongoing cost of what remains of our space program. There is a point to be made there; I anticipate more and more of such exploration will in future be made by private enterprise rather than government. But I hope that, as a species, we never lose the urge to see what’s over the next hill – or on the next planet. If we lost that urge, we’d be far poorer for it.