KUSA - NASA's solar powered Jupiter-bound Juno orbiter is headed towards Earth for what mission managers say is a critical gravity assisted fly by.
Tim Gasparrini, Juno Program Manager for Lockheed Martin, says the fly by is important to allow Juno to increase its speed in orbit around the Sun so it can reach Jupiter as scheduled on July 4, 2016.
The flyby comes as the US government shutdown continues. That shutdown has curtailed activity on several NASA projects, but it is not expected to impact the Juno mission in any way.
Gasparrini says his team is rehearsed and set for the maneuver and that Juno is 100 percent healthy. During the flyby, Juno will also capture an unprecedented new movie of the Earth/Moon system. The spacecraft will also measure Earth's magnetosphere and examine the Moon in ultraviolet and infrared light.
The flyby will accelerate the spacecraft's velocity by 16,330 mph. The closest approach will be over South Africa at about 1:21 p.m. Denver time.
To learn more about the mission, please visit: http://missionjuno.swri.edu/.
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