Independence Day wasn’t only linked to outer space in theaters this weekend with the release of Independence Day: Resurgence. A real-life five-year mission ended this week with a new look at an old celestial friend. Following U.S. missions that sent the Pioneer 10 spacecraft past Jupiter in 1973, and Galileo into its orbit between 1995 and 2003, NASA maneuvered a spacecraft named Juno into Jupiter’s orbit Monday, July 4, 2016, providing new, never before seen views of the solar system’s largest planet. “Independence Day always is something to celebrate, but today we can add to America’s birthday another reason to cheer — Juno is at Jupiter,” said NASA administrator Charlie Bolden.
“And what is more American than a NASA mission going boldly where no spacecraft has gone before? With Juno, we will investigate the unknowns of Jupiter’s massive radiation belts to delve deep into not only the planet’s interior, but into how Jupiter was born and how our entire solar system evolved,” said Bolden.
The burn of Juno’s 645-Newton Leros-1b main engine began at 10:18 p.m. Central Time, decreasing the spacecraft’s velocity by 1,212 miles per hour (542 meters per second) and allowing Juno to be captured in orbit around Jupiter. Juno then turned so that the sun’s rays could once again reach the 18,698 individual solar cells that give Juno its energy.
“The spacecraft worked perfectly, which is always nice when you’re driving a vehicle with 1.7 billion miles on the odometer,” said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Juno’s scientific purpose is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter. Juno will investigate the existence of a solid planetary core, map Jupiter’s magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in the atmosphere, and observe the planet’s auroras. The Juno spacecraft launched on Aug. 5, 2011 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft.
If you haven’t kept up on the mission, check out this footage about Juno, courtesy of NASA: