With all the hype around Juno’s rendezvous with Jupiter, many lose sight of exactly how great a feat it was. I’m a fan of putting things into perspective, and if any story deserves perspective, it’s this one. Mine involves a basketball and a housefly. I’ve previously used the highly touted basketball technique when describing a super massive black hole that was recently discovered.

fly on basketball

A typical basketball is about 9.8 inches in diameter. A typical housefly is about 5 mm tall to its wings.

What does this have to do with the Juno mission? Well, the space craft traveled 1.7 billion miles and got within 3000 miles of Jupiter’s surface.. If Jupiter were a basketball, and Juno’s closest pass the height of the fly’s body, then Juno hitting its orbit is like shooting the wings off a fly perched on a basketball from three miles away.

Okay, so admittedly that exaggerating a bit. All the calculations for Juno’s flight were done well ahead of time, and small variances could be made up along the way – in fact, the burn had to be a little longer than originally planned. You can’t do that with a bullet, but it was still a spectacle of science.

Here are some other fun facts about Juno:

Total Distance Traveled: ~1.7 billion miles (that’s with a ‘b’)
Fastest Speed:~150,000 mph
Speed at Orbital Insertion:~130,000 mph
Spacecraft Dimensions: 11.5 feet in diameter, 11.5 feet long
Solar Cells: 3 Arrays @ 256.7 square feet each
Power From Solar Cells: 14000 watts at leaving Earth – or the size of a large residential array. Only 400 watts at arriving at Jupiter (due to less light that far out)

Posted by Darren Beyer

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