Juno was launched nearly five years ago on a mission to study Jupiter’s composition and evolution. Juno’s main spacecraft body measures 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) tall and 11.5 feet in diameter. But with its three solar panels open, it spans about 66 feet (20 meters). “Preliminary looks are that the spacecraft is performing well ,” said Guy Beutelschies, Director of Interplanetary Missions. Jupiter is a huge ball of gas 11 times wider than Earth and 300 times more massive than our planet.
The spacecraft will orbit the poles and try to dodge the planet’s most hazardous radiation belts. Juno will circle Jupiter 37 times for 20 months, diving down to about 2,600 miles (4,100 kilometers) above the planet’s dense clouds. It will help scientists better understand the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere. The Juno mission ends on February 20, 2018, when Juno is expected to crash into Jupiter.