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Juno mission to Jupiter nears its climax

Image: Juno at Jupiter
An artist’s conception shows NASA’s Juno spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter. (Credit: NASA / SwRI)

Everything about NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter is big: the destination (giant planet, duh!), the cost ($1.1 billion), the travel time (five years to cruise 1.8 million miles), even the solar panels (totaling 635 square feet in area, about the size of a one-bedroom apartment).

And one of the biggest things for us Earthlings is that you can use the small screen on your smartphone to watch the mission reach its climax while you’re waiting for the Fourth of July fireworks to begin.

NASA will be providing live video coverage of Juno’s orbital insertion maneuver, starting at 7:30 p.m. PT Monday. Mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California expect to hear that the bus-sized spacecraft successfully executed Monday’s key engine burn at 8:53 p.m. PT.

If the engine firing goes wrong, the probe could zoom uselessly past Jupiter, or enter the wrong orbit around the planet. But a successful maneuver will set the stage for 20 months’ worth of meticulously planned orbital observations.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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