Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Juno Joins Jupiter

 

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Artist’s concept of the Juno spacecraft at Jupiter. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Last night, NASA’s Juno probe successfully performed the necessary braking maneuver to put it in orbit around Jupiter. Juno was launched back in the summer of 2011 and has traveled 1.7 billion miles (including a flyby of Earth to pick up speed) to get to Jupiter.

The plan is for the probe to hang out around Jupiter’s poles and peek inside the planet and try to figure out what’s going on. (See, in Roman mythology, Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide what he was doing. His wife Juno was able to look through the veil to see what was going on.) Specifically, the probe will study Jupiter’s gravity field, magnetic field, and polar magnetosphere. And it will try to determine if the gigantic swirling ball of gas has a rocky core at the middle.

Unlike most other space probes, this one has a crew. Well, kinda. There are three LEGO men who made the trip. There are figures representing the Roman god Jupiter, his wife Juno, and Galileo Galilei. However, LEGO purists may be disappointed: to increase their durability, they are made of aluminum instead of plastic.

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There are 5 comments.

  1. Pilli Inactive

    However, LEGO purists may be disappointed: to increase their durability, they are made of aluminum instead of plastic.

    What? I thought plastic would last millions of years in our landfills. Is this not true? It really degrades in just a few years?

    • #1
    • July 5, 2016, at 3:06 PM PST
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  2. Rick Poach Inactive

    Now that Juno’s around, I’m waiting for Jupiter to turn Io into a cow. That’d be cool.

    • #2
    • July 5, 2016, at 3:20 PM PST
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  3. John Walker Contributor

    Pilli:

    However, LEGO purists may be disappointed: to increase their durability, they are made of aluminum instead of plastic.

    What? I thought plastic would last millions of years in our landfills. Is this not true? It really degrades in just a few years?

    My guess is that they made them of space-qualified aluminium because they didn’t have any characterisation of how the usual plastic would behave in space. It might outgas or degrade in the high radiation environment around Jupiter. It would be highly embarrassing if the LEGO figures caused a scientific instrument to fail by degrading in the space environment. Making them out of the same material as the structure of the spacecraft eliminates this risk.

    • #3
    • July 5, 2016, at 3:36 PM PST
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  4. Bruce Caward Thatcher

    John Walker: My guess is that they made them of space-qualified aluminium because they didn’t have any characterisation of how the usual plastic would behave in space. It might outgas or degrade in the high radiation environment around Jupiter. It would be highly embarrassing if the LEGO figures caused a scientific instrument to fail by degrading in the space environment. Making them out of the same material as the structure of the spacecraft eliminates this risk.

    Yes John, thanks for this quick lesson, and for every word you write.

    But I’m with Pilli in not missing an opportunity for the snark. And don’t get me started on styrofoam! (A necessary ingredient of potting soil! And if it “lasts 500 years”, doesn’t that mean it’s amazingly stable and won’t interact with anything else, making it intensely eco-friendly? Gaaaah!! Okay, stop Bruce . . . )

    • #4
    • July 5, 2016, at 3:46 PM PST
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  5. John Walker Contributor

    By the way, lest LEGO figures seem a frivolous waste of mass on a spacecraft whose total mission budget is US$ 1.1 billion, recall that when spacecraft are designed, there is a margin for “mass creep” during the development phase. You can’t always anticipate everything until you actually start to bend metal and assemble the vehicle. If, when you get to the end, you have a kilogram or two left over, it doesn’t cost anything to use it on a “public outreach” stunt.

    • #5
    • July 5, 2016, at 4:41 PM PST
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