Illustration of NASA’s Juno spacecraft firing its main engine to slow down and go into orbit around Jupiter. Lockheed Martin built the Juno spacecraft for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Credit: NASA/Lockheed Martin

NASA has done plenty of great things in the past: sending a man to the moon, driving rovers across Mars, and boosting American pride during the height of the Cold War.

On Monday, NASA showed that its ability to pull off amazing technological feats hasn’t diminished a bit. After a risky $1.1 billion, 5-year project to send a spacecraft to Jupiter, NASA’s Juno officially entered the planet’s orbit – on July 4th no less.

While everyone celebrated Juno’s mission, few people understand how complex the project was. This gif shows all the details:


The mission started almost 5 years ago on August 5, 2011, when the orbiter launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Precise calculations allowed Juno to orbit the Sun once, and then used Earth’s gravity to “sling” itself into deeper space.

The boosted velocity allowed Juno to reach Jupiter and enter the planet’s orbit.

According to NASA, Juno features the state-of-the-art solar panels that powers it in low sun light conditions:

A Solar-Powered, Spinning Spacecraft Jupiter’s orbit is five times farther from the sun than Earth’s location, so the giant planet receives about 25 times less sunlight than Earth. Juno will be the first solar-powered spacecraft designed to operate at such a great distance from the sun, and its solar panels must be quite large to generate sufficient power there. To meet this challenge, three solar panels extend outward from Juno’s hexagonal body, giving the spacecraft an overall span of 66 feet (20 meters).

Juno has four main goals that will help us understand the creation of our solar system better:

  • Determine how much water is in Jupiter’s atmosphere
  • Look deep into Jupiter’s atmosphere to measure composition, temperature, cloud motions and other properties
  • Map Jupiter’s magnetic and gravity fields
  • Explore and study Jupiter’s magnetosphere near the planet’s poles, especially the auroras – Jupiter’s northern and southern lights