NASA’s Juno probe is bound for Jupiter but suffered a glitch on Wednesday while performing an Earth flyby.
The Juno probe suffered the glitch while picking up speed and the expensive piece of equipment quickly went into safe mode. The spacecraft was slingshotting around Earth to gain momentum before flinging itself towards Jupiter.
Juno is a $1.1 billion mission and scientists are still trying to figure out what may have gone wrong. According to Juno project manager Rick Nybakken, “We believe we are on track as planned to Jupiter.”
NASA officials are calling the concern a “moderate” problem that they hope to solve in the near future.
NASA officials began working on the Jupiter destined Juno spacecraft in August 2011. The probe is expected to arrive at Jupiter in July 2016.
The Juno probe needed to fly around Earth to gain momentum because its 8,000 pounds of weight made it too heavy to be carried by its Atlas 5 rocket all the way to Jupiter.
The Earth flyby brought the Juno probe to within just 347 miles of Earth at 3:21PM EDT. The flyby was meant to boost the probes speed from 78,000 mph to 87,000 mph.
After Juno makes its way to Jupiter it will enter the planets orbit and study the planets atmosphere, gravitational field and magnetic field. The probe features nine high-tech scientific instruments.
NASA officials hope to collect data for a full Earth year.
Once completed NASA hopes the Juno probe will provide valuable information about the planets formation, structure and composition. Scientists, for example, are still not sure if Jupiter features a solid core.
The Juno team was hoping to collect pictures of the Earth-moon system but the probe returned very little data.
Here’s a video that describes the Juno probe Earth flyby: