Rufus Gifford joins Juno mission celebrations

Wednesday 06 Jul 16

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John Leif Jørgensen
Professor and Head of Measurement and Instrumentation
DTU Space
+4545 25 34 48
The United States ambassador to Denmark was present when DTU Space celebrated Juno’s arrival at Jupiter.

After five long years and a journey of 2.8 billion kilometres, the NASA probe Juno successfully began orbiting Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, at 5.55 a.m. on Tuesday. The news was celebrated at DTU Space in Lyngby, where one of the invited guests was Rufus Gifford, the United States ambassador to Denmark.

DTU Space has supplied equipment to the mission in the form of four star cameras, which have been used to ensure extremely precise navigation and to take photographs of Jupiter. It was for this reason NASA invited eleven researchers from DTU Space to travel to California to witness the historic moment.The group included Professor John Leif Jørgensen, who spent an hour talking about the morning’s events—via Skype—with the assembled company at DTU Space.

He tried to convey how extraordinary it felt to receive a message that everything had gone well, long after the events had actually taken place. The radio signal from Juno took 48 minutes to reach the control centre, so when the message stating that the probe had achieved orbit was received, the event was already ‘old news’.

The distance ‘as the crow flies’ from the Earth to Jupiter is three-quarters of a billion kilometres, but Juno has covered almost four times this distance on its flight because, for example, it had to circle the Earth to achieve sufficient velocity to complete the journey.

John Leif Jørgensen mentioned the capacity to operate units remotely across these immense distances as a good example of space technology that can also be used closer to home to steer robots and drones, for instance.

Ambassador Gifford gave a short speech in which he stated that he, personally, was extremely interested in hi-tech missions like this one to Jupiter, and that he viewed them as an excellent way to stimulate involvement among young people. He congratulated DTU on the results of the mission thus far, which he termed “a fine example of a successful partnership between DTU and NASA, and between Denmark and the United States”.

In addition to assisting with navigation, the cameras supplied by DTU Space have been used to take photographs of Jupiter and some of the areas of space that the probe has passed through en route to its final destination. DTU Space has also validated and calibrated the magnetometer on board that the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) developed to study the giant planet’s magnetic field.

It is expected that the mission will cost somewhere in the region of DKK 13 billion, and DTU has been allocated responsibility for approximately one tenth of the mission.