Celebrations at Nasa as 'Juno' begins its orbit of Jupiter
Nasa celebrated a key triumph yesterday as its $1.1bn (€987m) Juno spacecraft successfully slipped into orbit around Jupiter on a mission to probe the origin of the solar system.
Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, erupted in cheers as the solar observatory successfully entered its aimed-for orbit around the biggest planet in our cosmic neighbourhood at 4.53am BST.
"We are in it," hollered Scott Bolton, Nasa's principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.
"You are the best team ever," he told his colleagues at mission control. "You just did the hardest thing Nasa has ever done."
Juno launched five years ago from Cape Canaveral, Florida and has travelled 1.7 billion miles since then.
"We are learning about nature, how Jupiter formed and what that tells us about our history and where we came from," said Mr Bolton, with the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.
Its inaugural orbit of the solar system's most massive planet - the fifth from the sun - will last 53 days. Subsequent orbits will be shorter.
Nasa expects Juno to be in position for its first close-up images of Jupiter on August 27, the same day its science instruments are turned on for a test run.
Only one other spacecraft, Galileo, has ever circled Jupiter, which is itself orbited by 67 known moons. Mr Bolton said Juno was likely to discover even more.
Seven other US space probes have sailed past the gas giant on brief reconnaissance missions before heading elsewhere in the solar system. © Daily Telegraph