Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

PASADENA, California — For the second time ever, a spacecraft has slipped into orbit around huge and mysterious Jupiter.

NASA’s robotic Juno probe began circling the solar system’s largest planet tonight (July 4), ending a nearly five-year journey through deep space and becoming the first spacecraft to enter Jupiter orbit since NASA’s Galileo mission did so in 1995.

The milestone came late tonight, as Juno fired its main engine in a crucial 35-minute burn that slowed the probe enough to be captured by Jupiter’s powerful gravity. That burn started at 11:18 p.m. EDT (0318 GMT Tuesday) and ended on schedule at 11:53 p.m. [Photos: NASA’s Juno Mission to Jupiter]

In the hours leading up to the engine burn, that same gravity had accelerated Juno to an estimated 165,000 mph (265,000 km/h) relative to Earth — faster than any human-made object has ever traveled, mission team members have said.



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