The "Biggest Baddest Planet" To Get A House Call

As of 6pm, Pacific Time, Juno is some 73 to 74 million miles away from Jupiter today, but Monday night Juno meets Jupiter! It's a match, made in heaven, that's been in the planning stages for years.

After a launch in 2011, and millions of miles of flight, Juno is about to meet (orbit around) Jupiter.

The Juno spacecraft is named after the Roman Goddess of the same name. Juno, the sister & wife of Jupiter. As Roman mythology goes, she could see through clouds. NASA's Juno is expected to dip under Jupiter's clouds when it gets within 3000 miles of what some call "the biggest baddest planet there is!"

JPL Engineer Emily Manor-Chapman says: "I am so excited to finally get to Jupiter, getting into orbit and really start the main thrust of our mission..." which is to study how the "monster" of our solar system.

Juno was constructed over 5 year years ago as the first fully solar-powered spacecraft in the agency. Launched in August of 2011, it is about to orbit the planet but like navigating LA Manor-Chapman says, "It was kind of a circuitous route to get there. We couldn't go direct. We didn't have a big enough vehicle that could send it straight to Jupiter. So we did a little road trip around the inner solar system."

In other words, the spacecraft took a little spin around earth and, with a gravitational kick in the craft Juno was on it's way to Jupiter. And, Monday - on July 4th - as Americans celebrate Independence Day - scientists here will fire the main engine.

AT 8:18pm the engine burns for 35 minutes to slow the spacecraft down and, by 8:53pm, scientists here expect to get a confirmation that that burn has completed, that Juno is IN ORBIT around Jupiter and, if all goes as planned Manor-Chapman says, "Everybody is going to jump up and be really excited."