Speaking with Scientists: Juno's Suicide Mission to Jupiter

On Friday, August 12th at Swainsboro Middle School, middle and high school students spoke via Skype with Mr. Briand Lessard, an electrical engineer for Lockhead Martin who worked with NASA on the Juno project. Juno was launched on August 5th to investigate the origin and evolution of Jupiter by probing and measuring its internal structure and gravitational field.

Mr. Lessard worked with a team of engineers to test Juno's magnetic properties along with those of items carried on board. Even three Lego characters representing Galileo, Jupiter and Juno were tested to make sure they would not interfere with data being collected on Jupiter's magnetic field. Lessard said Galileo was chosen for discovering Jupiter's moons and Juno for being married to Jupiter and seeing through all his tricks, just as scientists hope this flight will help us see through some of the planet's mysteries. Another project Mr. Lessard assisted with was creating tones for messages sent back to Earth from Juno. He played these tones for the students and explained that there were 186 of them to communicate details of the voyage.

Juno is projected to fly by the Earth in two years. When this happens, the Earth's gravitational pull will catapult it to Jupiter making Juno the fastest man-made object. The spacecraft should then reach Jupiter by 2016 and orbit the planet 33 times in one year collecting and transmitting data before crashing into it. Lessard said this is done to keep it from hitting Jupiter's moons. Middle school student Mason Grant asked what will keep Juno from going through the gaseous planet instead of crashing and Lessard replied that Jupiter's pressure and heat are so intense there will be little left of the Juno once it meets both.