On 5 July 2016, four years and 11 months after launching from Cape Canaveral, NASA’s Juno spacecraft entered a polar orbit around Jupiter. It was a full 13 years since Professor Stan Cowley from our Department of Physics and Astronomy became attached to the project as Co-Investigator. Interplanetary missions work on long time-scales.
Unlike some other missions, there is no actual University of Leicester manufactured hardware aboard Juno – but a great deal of University of Leicester expertise is evident both in the development of the mission and the analysis of its results. The University was involved with Cassini’s visit to Saturn and that experience, in tandem with more than half a century of space research, made Leicester an obvious choice for the UK element of Juno.
The spacecraft’s initial orbit took 53.5 days to complete; the plan was that on the third orbit Juno would move closer into a tight 14-day orbit. However, something curious happened with the software – an unexpected reboot – and until the NASA team can determine why that happened, Juno is staying in the larger orbit.