Sunday, 10 June 2007

Back to Jupiter

There is now a proper website for Juno, the second in NASA's New Frontiers programme of medium-class, PI-led missions. NF is a good and necessary scheme: it fills the gap between the cheerful Discovery missions and the seriously expensive flagship efforts like Galileo and Cassini.

Juno seems like an intelligent, practical way to address the gaps in our knowledge of Jupiter: after the Sun, it's the dominant object in the Solar System, and it deserves a second orbiter. Juno is set to use a polar orbit, and a clever set of instruments, to complement Galileo's work and to further chip away at our ignorance.

In other planetary programme news, MESSENGER, on its way to Mercury, made its second flyby of Venus during this last week (one of many gravity assist manoeuvres to get it into Mercury orbit without breaking the bank). En passant it made some cooperative measurements with the ESA's Venus Express, currently in orbit around Earth's evil twin. It's good to see the inner solar system getting some attention as well.

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