NASA’s Jupiter mission probe, Juno has been studying the massive planet for the last two years. The 1 USD billion mission was supposed to end after July this year. The probe was supposed to crash into the clouds of Jupiter. However, NASA has decided to extend its lifetime till July 2021.
The Juno probe mission has studied the planet and been sending brilliant records and data. Passing through the thick layers of cloud on the planet, it has sent back images of its massive storms, cloud bands etc.
But like any other good thing, the mission by Juno also is nearing its end. The NASA planned to plunge it into the clouds of Jupiter to end its mission. The reason was very simple. It is believed that Jupiter’s moon, Europa may harbour alien life as it contains twice as much water as earth. If the probe accidentally falls on the moon, it might contaminate it. To avoid such circumstances, it was being ended deliberately.
But, for the sake of continuation of scientific works, the mission is being extended till July 2021. Scientific work regarding this will be continued until the year 2022.
This extension of the mission was necessary. This is because Juno has been unable to complete its mapping process due to some technical problems. it has specialised instruments with which it has been mapping the planet and measuring its gravitational field over the years. It was supposed to end this year. But, due to the technical problems, the mission has been extended.
The other reason is that Jupiter emits very powerful radiations which might harm the delicate instruments of Juno. To keep it out of harm’s way, the probe is kept in a separate elliptical orbit to avoid its radiations. After the discovery of some sticky engine valves, NASA decided to slow down its pace with which it orbits the planet.
Another project manager at the jet propulsion laboratory of NASA also said that they had thought of multiple ways to shorten the span of Juno orbiting the planet but they could not risk burning another main engine which would put the mission at risk.
The extension of the probe would prove very useful to find what lies inside the mysterious planet. This extension would allow Juno to finish mapping the planet mainly focused on its gravitational field.
If the probe stays active even after the extension period, NASA might continue to further extend its lifetime.