Q: Guess what the fastest object made by man is?
A; The Juno spacecraft that is currently peeking into the goings-ons on the planet Jupiter. It travelled at the extreme speed of 160,000 miles per hour for 5 years to cover a distance of 2.8 BILLION kilometres from the Earth to reach its destination! Juno reached Jupiter one year ago, on July 4, 2016.
There have been other missions to investigate Jupiter but this is humankind’s second spacecraft to enter Jupiter’s orbit, which is very difficult to do. The first mission was from 1995-2003, and was carried out by a spacecraft called Galileo.
Juno’s objective is to gather information about the formation, surface, and extreme magnetic core of Jupiter. It will orbit around the planet 37 times over a period of 20 months, gathering and transmitting information about this planet to scientists on earth. You might wonder where it gets the fuel to keep going for such a large distance over such a long period of time – Juno is fitted out with solar arrays to help with this.
Why do we care so much about Jupiter? Understanding more about our solar system’s largest planet will help to our understanding more about the formation of planets and how space works.
Of course any real mission is not completely without danger. Juno had to first be able to enter Jupiter’s orbit and withstand the extreme radiation that it was slammed with. Jupiter has a very strong magnetic field and spins very fast on its axis. As such, it generates a field of radiation that is more devastating than that on anything in our solar system, apart from the sun. This level of radiation can destroy the functioning of the spacecraft.
The team building the ship and the scientists working on this project have had to brainstorm and come up with various innovative designs to withstand the radiation. They have also designed a path around Jupiter that minimises the radiation that it will encounter.
NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) recently shared some findings from Juno that suggest that there are huge cyclones raging at its North and South poles. I wonder what else Juno will share with us!
Check this video out…