NASA is shut down, along with the rest of the government. It looked as if their Juno probe, which cost $1.1 billion, might be permanently shut down, when it seemed to randomly choose to go into safe mode. Then, it was cut off from communication with the scientists at NASA’s Southwest Research Institute, who were monitoring the probe, despite the shutdown. It was as if it had gone into a kind of deep sleep. But now, scientists on Earth are back in contact with the Juno probe, because it has exited its safe mode, and it has awoken.
It was in 2011 that the Juno probe took off on its mission to study Jupiter up close and personal. The past two years, the probe has spent in orbit around Earth and Mars to get enough momentum to slingshot its way onward to Jupiter.
Earlier this week, it broke free of Earth’s orbit, and it’s now speeding towards its destination at 7,457 mph (12,000 kph). The probe is among the fastest creations of humans.
The scientists at NASA’s Southwest Research Institute were probably pulling out their hair in frustration when they lost contact with the Juno probe, but there wasn’t much they could do about the situation except to maybe cross their fingers and hope for the best.
The probe went into shut down mode on October 9, 2013. It was then, when the Juno probe was at its closest to the Earth, that the European Space Agency’s 15-meter antenna received a signal from the Juno probe. It indicated that the probe started up an automated fault-protection action — in other words, it went into safe mode.
The probe was designed to enter into safe mode if the on-board computer detects that something has gone wrong or is not what should have happened.
When the safe mode was entered into, the Juno probe shut off most of its instruments and noncritical components. It pointed itself towards the sun so that received power from the sun.
Earlier today, the Juno probe exited safe mode, and scientists on Earth were once again in contact with it.
According to a statement that was given to The Register by the Southwest Research Institute, the Juno probe “is currently operating nominally and all systems are fully functional.” Also, being in safe mode, the statement continued, “did not impact the spacecraft’s trajectory one smidgen.”
On July 4 in 2016, the Juno probe will have arrived at its intended destination, and it will start to collect information about Jupiter’s atmosphere, gravity, and other data about the giant planet.
The Juno probe was named after the wife of the mythological god, Jupiter. In mythology, Juno used her powers as a goddess and learned secrets that her husband was attempting to hide from her behind clouds. The Juno probe will, likewise, attempt to discover secrets about the planet Jupiter.
What are the secrets that the NASA space probe, Juno, will discover about Jupiter? After having gone into a deep sleep, the Juno probe has awoken and is continuing on its voyage towards Jupiter. We’ll have to wait until 2016 to find out what secrets it will learn, but the Juno probe is sure to collect data which will rewrite our textbooks and add to our knowledge of Jupiter, its structure, atmosphere, and history.
Written by: Douglas Cobb