|Juno spacecraft (NASA photo)|
Today (July 5, 2016), NASA's Juno spacecraft successfully started the main phase of its mission by entering Jupiter's orbit. The spacecraft was launched in August 2011 with the mission of orbiting Jupiter to study the planet below the level of its clouds. An article in The New York Times, "Juno Enters Jupiter's Orbit, Capping 5-year Voaage," explains the importance of studying the planet Jupiter:
“Jupiter, most likely the first planet formed after the sun, is believed to hold the keys to understanding the origins of our solar system. How much water it contains and the possible presence of a rocky core could reveal where in the solar system Jupiter was created and provide clues to the early days of other planets.”
The topic is certainly of interest to engineering students, and of particular interest for those whose area of study is solar power, the spacecraft is powered by solar panels (see also my previous post, "Solar power for Business English," June 7, 2016).
The website of the article has plenty of extra features that can be used in the classroom. My favorite is the "Interactive Feature" Jupiter and its moons:
In addition to information about the planet’s moons (with spinnable maps of Jupiter and the Galilean moons), there is a video (3:51) about the Juno mission from launch to orbit. It is narrated clearly and slowly, and although there is some background music, it is not loud or distracting.
Since the article describes the spacecraft’s mission, there is a lot of vocabulary describing movement and location.
Expressions of movement & location:
- Juno enters Jupiter’s orbit
- ducking through intense belts of violent radiation
- as it skimmed over the clouds
- spacecraft on Monday finally clinched its spot in the orbit
- left it in the grip of its desired orbit
- spacecraft to enter orbit around Jupiter
- spacecraft spent eight years there surveying the planet
- a probe that parachuted into Jupiter’s atmosphere
- the tools that Juno does to delve into what lies beneath Jupiter’s clouds
- ensnared by Jupiter’s gravity
- Juno accelerated quickly to its rendezvous with Jupiter
- passing within the orbit of Callisto and Ganymede
- it zoomed past the other two
- “We’re barreling down on Jupiter really quick”
- Juno passed over Jupiter’s north pole and through a region
- electrons bouncing back and forth at nearly the speed of light
- “They will go right through a spacecraft and strip the atoms apart …”
- Juno’s main engine began firing to slow the spacecraft enough to be captured by the planet’s gravity.
- Juno also passed through the plane of Jupiter’s diaphanous rings.
- even a piece of dust colliding with a spacecraft moving at 130,000 m.p.h.
- Juno passed within 2,900 miles of Jupiter’s cloud tops.
- “what we’re targeting is a space …”
- “We’re going to hit that within 1.2 seconds after a journey of 1.7 billion miles.”
- Then Juno was headed outward again, away from Jupiter.
- the spacecraft still had to pivot so that
- it will swing back for its first good close-up
- Juno will fire its engine again on Oct. 19 to move to a 14-day orbit
- The spacecraft will have to make multiple flybys
- each time Juno zooms past Jupiter
- Juno will pass through the more violent portions
- Juno is to make a suicidal dive into Jupiter
- possibility of Juno’s crashing into Europa
The vocabulary referring to tools and instruments is also very useful:
- Juno's instruments are designed to precisely measure the magnetic and gravitational fields of Jupiter and the glow of microwaves emanating from within. That, for instance, will give hints about storm systems like the visible Great Red Spot.
- Juno has been on its own since Thursday, performing a programmed sequence of actions
- could have knocked out the computer and other electronics
- a titanium vault built for Juno proved up to the task of
- Juno's main engine began firing to slow the spacecraft enough to be captured by the planet's gravity.
- After the end of the engine burn, the spacecraft still had to pivot so that its solar panels were again facing the sun.
- Juno's three 30-foot-long panels with 18,698 solar cells generate a mere 500 watts to power the spacecraft and its instruments.
- Its scientific instruments, which had been turned off for the arrival at Jupiter, will be turned back on in two days.
- Juno will fire its engine again on Oct. 19 to move to a 14-day orbit when the science instruments begin in earnest.
- The assault of radiation each time Juno zooms past Jupiter will take its toll on the electronics.
Finally, in discussing what could have gone wrong and what it is hoped will be discovered, there is useful vocabulary as well:
- Jupiter, most likely the first planet formed after the sun, is believed to hold the keys to understanding the origins of our solar system. How much water it contains and the possible presence of a rocky core could reveal where in the solar system Jupiter was created and provide clues to the early days of other planets.
- In this belt of radiation, electrons bouncing back and forth at nearly the speed of light could have knocked out the computer and other electronics.
- Although the mission planners had chosen a place that they thought would be clear, they could not be certain, and even a piece of dust colliding with a spacecraft moving at 130,000 m.p.h. could have caused considerable damage.
- With a different vantage point from Juno’s polar orbit, Juno’s cameras are likely to add to the number of known moons of Jupiter, now totaling 67. “I expect that we will see some, and the number will keep going up,” Dr. Bolton said.
- That is to ensure that there would be no possibility of Juno’s crashing into Europa, regarded as one of the likelier places for life elsewhere in the solar system, …
- Even in the best outcome, the mission might be extended a few months.
For more information about the spacecraft and its mission, the NASA website for Juno is: