NASA says Juno will be about 2,580 miles above the gas giant’s roiling cloud tops and traveling at a speed of about 129,000 mph ond) relative to the planet at the time of closest approach.
"This will be the first time we are planning to operate the full Juno capability to investigate Jupiter's interior structure via its gravity field,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “We are looking forward to what Jupiter’s gravity may reveal about the gas giant's past and its future.”
During the flyby, seven of Juno’s eight science instruments will be energized to collect science data and images that will offer clues to the origins of our solar system and the formation of the planets and moons.
However, mission managers have decided not to collect data with the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument during the December flyby, to allow the team to complete an update to the spacecraft software that processes JIRAM’s science data.
A software patch allowing JIRAM’s operation is expected to be available prior to the next perijove pass (PJ4) on February 2, 2017, adds NASA.
The spacecraft team continues to weigh its options regarding modifications of Juno’s orbital period - how long it takes for the spacecraft to complete one orbit around Jupiter. At present, Juno’s orbital period is 53.4 days.
"We have a healthy spacecraft that is performing its mission admirably,” said Rick Nybakken, project manager for Juno from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “What we do not want to do is add any unnecessary risk, so we are moving forward carefully.”
Interestingly, Apple, in collaboration with NASA and the Juno team,will release an interactive guide to the mission (an iBook) on December 11.
Launched on August 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the Juno spacecraft arrived at Jupiter on July 4, 2016.