“How Juno Will Survive Its Death-Defying Mission to Jupiter”
by Rebecca Boyle
Popular Mechanics, June 28, 2016
How’s it going? It’s been a while and I have been wanting to check in, so I’m writing with a pitch about Juno. I want to write about how Juno is the most badass spacecraft ever built — and how engineers came up with a way to send it to the worst place in the solar system without killing it. Here’s a pitch:
When Juno arrives at the largest planet in a few weeks, it will use its delicate instruments to carefully peer beneath Jupiter’s clouds. But while the measurements will be careful and deliberate, the environment will be horrendous. It will be akin to gently raising a windsock during a radioactive hurricane. Juno would never survive Jupiter’s radiation belts without its titanium radiation vault, a celestial carapace tougher than any previous spacecraft armor. Aside from the sun’s immediate vicinity, Jupiter is the solar system’s most hellacious environment, and sending a spacecraft there requires some heavy engineering.
One of Juno’s main goals is to search for oxygen, which should be abundant in the planet. But scientists have had trouble finding it. Jupiter’s microwave radiometer will be able to search for oxygen bound up in water molecules, which will help scientists understand how the giant planet coalesced from the nebula that gave birth to the sun. The radiometer is one of Juno’s most important tools, and its antenna determined the spacecraft’s overall size. But its sampling sensors are separated from its receiver, which is tied into Juno’s brain. Engineers had to figure out how to protect the brain without blocking Juno’s senses.
There are other examples, too. Juno is about to unveil a lot of Jupiter’s secrets — which will tell scientists a lot about the history of the solar system.
Let me know what you think!