NASA’s Juno probe continues to retrieve its memory on Jupiter after a data outage disrupted communications between the spacecraft and its operators on Earth following a flyby of the giant planet in December.
The Juno spacecraft’s final flyby of Jupiter, its 47th close pass by the planet, ended on December 14. But as its operators at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory received science data from the flight, they found they could no longer directly access the spacecraft’s memory.
The team successfully restarted Juno’s computer and on December 17 placed the spacecraft in “safe mode” with only essential systems running as a precaution. From a NASA update on December 22 (opens in new tab), the steps taken by the team to recover Juno’s science data had progressed positively. Juno operators successfully unbind flyby data.
“Science data from the most recent solar-powered spacecraft flyby of Jupiter and its moon Io appears to be intact,” NASA wrote in the update.
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The disruption is currently believed to have been caused when Juno flew through the intense radiation of a part of Jupiter’s magnetosphere. There is no indication that the radiation spike has corrupted the data from its close approach to Jupiter or its transit volcanic Jupiter moon Io.
The rest of the data from Juno’s last flyby is expected to be transmitted back to Earth in the coming days, so operators can assess whether it has been affected by the outage.
Juno left Earth in August 2011, traveling 1.7 million miles, and entered orbit around the gas giant planet 5 years later on July 4, 2016. Having become the first spacecraft to see through Jupiter’s thick clouds, Juno’s goal was to answer questions about the composition and origin of Jupiter.
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It takes Juno 53 Earth days to orbit Jupiter, with Juno’s main mission requiring 35 orbits during which it collected 3 terabits of science data and some incredible images of Jupiter and its moons. Because Jupiter is believed to be the oldest world in the solar system, learning more about it could reveal information about the formation of the solar system itself.
This data changed many of planetary scientists’ ideas about Jupiter’s atmosphere and interior, revealing an atmospheric weather layer that extends far beyond its water clouds as well as a deep interior with a sparse core of heavy elements.
The spacecraft’s primary mission ended in July, and the spacecraft is expected to continue its extensive science activities until at least 2025, according to the Planetary Society (opens in new tab).
The spacecraft was expected to exit safe mode this week and will make its next flyby of Jupiter on January 22, 2023.
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