Jupiter-bound spacecraft makes key maneuver
PASADENA, California — A Jupiter-bound spacecraft has successfully fired its engine in the first of two crucial maneuvers intended to bring it toward Earth for a momentum-gathering fly-by.
NASA officials say the Juno spacecraft fired its main engine for just short of 30 minutes Thursday.
Along with another engine firing set for next week, the maneuver is intended to direct Juno toward Earth’s orbit for a 2013 fly-by, where it will use the planet’s gravity to accelerate toward the outer solar system.
It’s currently about 300 million miles (482 million kilometers) from Earth.
Juno launched last year from Florida and is due to arrive at Jupiter in 2016. Once in Jupiter’s orbit, it will peer through the cloud cover to learn more about the evolution of the giant gas planet.
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