NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Returns 1st Flyby images of Earth while Sailing On to Jupiter

by Ken Kremer on October 11, 2013

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Juno swoops over Argentina  This reconstructed day side image of Earth is one of the 1st snapshots transmitted back home by NASA’s Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft during its speed boosting flyby on Oct. 9, 2013. It was taken by the probes Junocam imager and methane filter at 12:06:30 PDT and an exposure time of 3.2 milliseconds. Juno was flying over South America and the southern Atlantic Ocean. The coastline of Argentina is visible at top right. Credit: NASA/JPL/SwRI/MSSS/Ken Kremer

This reconstructed day side image of Earth is one of the 1st snapshots transmitted back home by NASA’s Juno spacecraft during its speed boosting flyby on Oct. 9, 2013. See the original raw image below taken by the probes Junocam imager and methane filter at 12:06:30 PDT and an exposure time of 3.2 milliseconds. Juno was due to be flying over South America and the southern Atlantic Ocean. Credit: NASA/JPL/SwRI/MSSS/Ken Kremer

Following the speed boosting slingshot of Earth on Wednesday, Oct. 9, that sent NASA’s Juno orbiter hurtling towards Jupiter, the probe has successfully transmitted back data and the very first flyby images despite unexpectedly going into ‘safe mode’ during the critical maneuver.

Juno is transmitting telemetry today,” spokesman Guy Webster, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), told me in a phone interview late today (Oct. 10), as Juno continues sailing on its 2.8 Billion kilometer (1.7 Billion mile) outbound trek to the Jovian system.

The new images of Earth captured by the Junocam imager serves as tangible proof that Juno is communicating.

“Juno is still in safe mode today (Oct. 10),” Webster told Universe Today.

“Teams at mission control at JPL and Lockheed Martin are actively working to bring Juno out of safe mode. And that could still require a few days,” Webster explained.

Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for Juno.

The initial raw images of Earth snapped by the craft’s Junocam imager were received by ground stations late today.

See above a day light image mosaic which I reconstructed and realigned based on the original raw image (see below) taken with the camera’s methane filter on Oct. 9 at 12:06:30 PDT (3:06:30 PM EST). Juno was to be flying over South America and the southern Atlantic Ocean.

This day side raw image of Earth is one of the 1st snapshots transmitted back home today by NASA’s Juno spacecraft during its speed boosting flyby on Oct. 9, 2013. It was taken by the probes Junocam imager and methane filter at 12:06:30 PDT and an exposure time of 3.2 ms. Credit: NASA/JPL/SwRI/MSSS

This day side raw image of Earth is one of the 1st snapshots transmitted back home today by NASA’s Juno spacecraft during its speed boosting flyby on Oct. 9, 2013. It was taken by the probes Junocam imager and methane filter at 12:06:30 PDT and an exposure time of 3.2 milliseconds. Juno was due to be flying over South America and the southern Atlantic Ocean. Credit: NASA/JPL/SwRI/MSSS

Juno performed a crucial swingby of Earth on Wednesday that accelerated the probe by 16330 MPH to enable it to arrive in orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016.

However the gravity assist maneuver did not go entirely as planned.

Shortly after Wednesday’s flyby, Juno Project manager Rick Nybakken, of JPL, told me in a phone interview that Juno had entered safe mode but that the probe was “power positive and we have full command ability.”

“After Juno passed the period of Earth flyby closest approach at 12:21 PM PST [3:21 PM EDT] and we established communications 25 minutes later, we were in safe mode,” Nybakken explained.

The safe mode was triggered while Juno was in an eclipse mode, the only eclipse it will experience during its entire mission.

The Earth flyby did accomplish its objective by placing the $1.1 Billion Juno spacecraft exactly on course for Jupiter as intended.

“We are on our way to Jupiter as planned!”

“None of this affected our trajectory or the gravity assist maneuver – which is what the Earth flyby is,” Nybakken stated.

Juno’s closest approach was over South Africa at about 561 kilometers (349 miles).

Juno’s flight track above Earth during Oct. 9, 2013 flyby. Credit: NASA/JPL

Juno’s flight track above Earth during Oct. 9, 2013 flyby. Credit: NASA/JPL

During the flyby, the science team also planned to observe Earth using most of Juno’s nine science instruments since the slingshot also serves as a key test of the spacecraft systems and the flight operations teams.

Juno also was to capture an unprecedented new movie of the Earth/Moon system.

Many more images were snapped and should be transmitted in coming days that eventually will show a beautiful view of the Earth and Moon from space.

“During the earth flyby we have most of our instruments on and will obtain a unique movie of the Earth Moon system on our approach, Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton told me. Bolton is from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), San Antonio, Texas.

“We will also calibrate instuments and measure earth’s magnetosphere, obtain closeup images of the Earth and the Moon in UV [ultraviolet] and IR [infrared],” Bolton explained to Universe Today.

Juno is approaching the Earth from deep space, from the sunlit side.

“Juno will take never-before-seen images of the Earth-moon system, giving us a chance to see what we look like from Mars or Jupiter’” says Bolton.

Here is a description of Junocam from the developer – Malin Space Science Systems

“Like previous MSSS cameras (e.g., Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Mars Color Imager) Junocam is a “pushframe” imager. The detector has multiple filter strips, each with a different bandpass, bonded directly to its photoactive surface. Each strip extends the entire width of the detector, but only a fraction of its height; Junocam’s filter strips are 1600 pixels wide and about 155 rows high. The filter strips are scanned across the target by spacecraft rotation. At the nominal spin rate of 2 RPM, frames are acquired about every 400 milliseconds. Junocam has four filters: three visible (red/green/blue) and a narrowband “methane” filter centered at about 890 nm.”

Juno soars skyward to Jupiter on Aug. 5, 2011 from launch pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 12:25 p.m. EDT. View from the VAB roof. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Juno soars skyward to Jupiter on Aug. 5, 2011 from launch pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 12:25 p.m. EDT. View from the VAB roof. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Juno launched atop an Atlas V rocket two years ago from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, on Aug. 5, 2011 on a journey to discover the genesis of Jupiter hidden deep inside the planet’s interior.

During a one year long science mission – entailing 33 orbits lasting 11 days each – the probe will plunge to within about 3000 miles of the turbulent cloud tops and collect unprecedented new data that will unveil the hidden inner secrets of Jupiter’s origin and evolution.

NBC News has also featured this Juno story – here

Read more about Juno’s flyby in my articles – here and here

Stay tuned here for continuing Juno, LADEE, MAVEN and more up-to-date NASA news.

Ken Kremer

About 

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, scientist, freelance science journalist (Princeton, NJ) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calanders including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral and NASA Wallops on over 40 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com

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