This illustration depicts NASA's Juno spacecraft at Jupiter, with its solar arrays and main antenna pointed toward the distant sun and Earth. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. More information about Juno is online at http://www.nasa.gov/juno and http://missionjuno.swri.edu. Photo via NASA/JPL-Caltech
This illustration depicts NASA’s Juno spacecraft at Jupiter, with its solar arrays and main antenna pointed toward the distant sun and Earth. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. More information about Juno is online at http://www.nasa.gov/juno and http://missionjuno.swri.edu. Photo via NASA/JPL-Caltech

An apparent software issue prompted the JPL-managed Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter to slip into “safe mode,” shutting down all of its instruments before it made a close flyby of the planet Wednesday, but mission managers said they believe the craft is still in working order.

Juno went into safe mode late Tuesday, California time, according to NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

It was the second recent glitch with the spacecraft. Last week, mission managers scrubbed a scheduled burn of the craft’s main engines intended to put it in a closer orbit. That decision was made due to a performance issue with a pair of valves connected to the propulsion system.

The two issues are believed to be unrelated.

NASA and JPL officials said the spacecraft acted as expected when it entered safe mode, which was apparently caused when a software-performance monitor triggered a reboot of the ship’s on-board computer.

“At the time safe mode was entered, the spacecraft was more than 13 hours from its closest approach to Jupiter,” said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager at JPL. “We were still quite a ways from the planet’s more intense radiation belts and magnetic fields. The spacecraft is healthy and we are working our standard recovery procedure.”

As a result of the issue, however, the craft made a close flyby of the planet but collected no scientific data. Another close flyby is set for Dec. 11 — hopefully with all instruments operating.

Juno made its first close flyby of the planet on Aug. 27, providing new information on Jupiter’s magnetic fields and aurora.

Juno entered into orbit around Jupiter on July 4, after a nearly five- year, 1.7 billion-mile journey.

During its 20-month mission, the craft will measure how much water is in the planet’s atmosphere; measure the composition, temperature and cloud motions in the atmosphere; map the planet’s magnetic and gravity fields; and explore the planet’s massive magnetosphere. It will also try to determine if the mostly gaseous planet has a solid core.

Through the study of the planet, which is mostly hydrogen and helium, scientists hope to gain insight into the formation of the solar system by learning more about the formation of giant planets. At the end of its mission, the Juno spacecraft will plunge into the planet.

—City News Service

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