Seeing the light: NASA’s solar powered mission to Jupiter

This month NASA’s JUNO spacecraft became the farthest solar powered spacecraft from the Sun.

Launched in August of 2011, JUNO used a gravity assist from Earth in October 2013 to develop sufficient momentum to glide to Jupiter.

JUNO’s on board power comes from three solar panels:

Quoting NASA:

“Engineers designed Juno with three massive solar panels, each nearly 30 feet long. Combined, they provide Juno with 49.7 m2 of active solar cells. Once it reaches Jupiter, Juno will generate more than 400 watts of power, which may not sound like a lot, but it’s an impressive feat at so great a distance. For comparison, Juno’s solar panels can generate about 14 kilowatts near Earth, enough to power the average American home for a year.”
Continue reading “Seeing the light: NASA’s solar powered mission to Jupiter”

MAVEN: What let the air out of Mars?

NASA announced another baby step in our understanding of the universe this week when an analysis of data from MAVEN revealed that solar wind was responsible for the loss of atmosphere on the planet Mars.

The probe which is MAVEN (or the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission) launched in 2013. As long as a school bus at thirty seven and a half feet, and weighing as much as a fully loaded SUV at 5,450 pounds, MAVEN has six instruments which track the interaction of solar wind Continue reading “MAVEN: What let the air out of Mars?”