Juno was sent out to study Jupiter on August 05, 2011 and has been orbiting the giant planet for about two tears. This mission was supposed to end when JUNO would crash into Jupiter’s clouds after July 2018. But there has been news of some changes in the schedule of this $1 billion mission. NASA has confirmed that the mission has been extended through July 2021.
JUNO has actively penetrated the thick layers of the clouds on Jupiter and sent dazzling pictures of colossal storms and cloud bangs. It has been searching for a core of the planet while performing other activities. Juno is no ordinary space mission; however, it is only the size of a tennis court, but it has performed functions no other satellite ever could do in the history of space expeditions. It was planned that in 2018, NASA would bid goodbye to JUNO in the same manner as Cassini probes.
Europa – the moon of Jupiter which is in frozen conditions, maybe a habitat for alien life, hence it was crucial to carefully end this mission without posing any threat to the moon or life present there. Europa’s ocean has double water than there is on Earth, if Juno collided with the moon of Jupiter, the possibility of contaminating it with earthly microbes was quite high.
Since the date of demise of Juno has been postponed for three years, the full and final will be done in September 2022. This has been done to fulfill the primary objective set for Juno which was mapping the gravitational field of Jupiter by taking data from perijoves. Juno has the data of 14 perijoves out of 32 and needs time to complete this mission.
Jupiter’s orbits are occupied by gases, and longer duration may damage the sensitive electronic devices installed on it. That’s why it moves around in a path which keeps it away from any harmful radiations. The route being long is covered by Juno in about 54 days. NASA tried to increase the speed but then decided to play it safe since there were specific issues with the engine valves. The challenge of performing the work in the defined timeline was met by extending the date of completion of the mission. However, NASA has not publically announced the final decision, but an inside agency had mentioned that such discussions are burning inside the organization. NASA may be soon declaring the results of Juno’s space flight.