Mission accomplished

Associated Press PhotoFrom left, Diane Brown, Scott Bolton and Rick Nybakken, in a post-orbit insertion briefing at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory following the solar-powered Juno spacecraft entered orbit around Jupiter on July 4 in Pasadena, Calif.

I needed a break. Horrific murders – one after another – terribly offensive rhetoric from both political parties and coming off of a very time-intensive project which lasted over a year; I indulged in some “veg time.”

Scrolling through the TV movies, I came across the funny yet poignant fan fave from 2007, Juno, starring the absolutely adorable Ellen Page. As I watched, totally absorbed, something began nagging at my memory.

Juno, Juno … the name seemed to ring a bell.

Let me digress for a moment. Whenever I read a story, hear about something of interest or come up with an idea for a column, I print out the story or write a “note to self” about the idea and squirrel it away in my “possible column file.” So, as I sat watching the final few moments of the movie, I knew I had to get the file out and see what had sparked the memory.

AHA! It took no time for me to “rediscover” that NASA’s current mission to Jupiter is called Juno.

With all of the horrifying, and media consuming events of the past many weeks, you might have missed something truly amazing and wonderful.

We have successfully completed the first phase of the Juno mission. The Jupiter orbiter arrived and was “being readied for operations around the largest planetary inhabitant in our solar system” NASA reported. Jupiter, with the exception of our sun, is bigger than everything else in the solar system put together.

Fittingly, in my opinion, Juno entered Jupiter’s orbit on the Fourth of July. All of Juno’s science instruments will be operational by the end of this month and data expecting to be gleaned from the mission is astounding…and really cool as well!

Launched five years ago, the success of Juno so far has NASA scientists and space geeks like me chomping at the bit. Because many of the instruments had to be turned off during the approach to the planet, the next “fly-by” locating Juno close enough to begin gathering data will be on Aug. 27. Release of the first findings from Juno is scheduled around Sept. 1.

In an article written by Kenneth Chang, science writer for the New York Times, he described what we can expect from this mission. Very little is known about what lies beneath “the colorful cloud stripes.” Expected to orbit the planet 37 times over the next 20 months, NASA is hoping “to receive data and images that will offer clues to the origins of our solar system and the formation of the planets and moons. The spacecraft will measure microwave emissions, the gravity field and the magnetic field, offering glimpses into what is deep inside Jupiter.”

There is so much more “science fiction-y” sort of stuff, it is rather mind blowing, I regret that I don’t have the space (excuse the pun!) to get into it here. Should you want to explore (yikes, I can’t seem to stop myself) further you can go to: www.nasa.gov/juno

Not only did my “veg time” help to sooth my weary mind and body but it led to finding a truly wonderful, uplifting story. I hope by sharing you have had a bit of uplifting “veg time” of your own.

Wendy J. Levenfeld is a published novelist, playwright and columnist. Send comments to wendylevenfeld@gmail.com. Visit Wendy’s website at www.wendylevenfeld.com.

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