NASA has revealed that it will purposefully send its Juno spacecraft to its death in Jupiter’s atmosphere to avoid polluting space or nearby planets.
What do you do with a $1.1 billion USD spacecraft named Juno that has outlived its purpose? You send it flying smack into one of the most volatile planets in our solar system, that’s what.
Well, not exactly. NASA has revealed its plans for its Juno spacecraft, which recently made history by reaching orbit around Jupiter’s atmosphere, and they’re surprisingly considerate.
The agency has confirmed that, come February 2018, it will proceed to retire Juno by sending the craft to its ultimate demise in Jupiter’s atmosphere. The move – rather simply than just for kicks – is actually part of a strategic approach to minimize pollution and contamination in our solar system.
Researchers estimate that life could be found one one of Jupiter’s moons – either Europa, Ganymede or Callisto – and NASA has no plans to disrupt that possibility. By steering Juno towards death rather than home, the agency hopes to avoid contamination. Heavy radiation in Jupiter’s atmosphere will utterly destroy any bacteria that may remain on Juno from its departure from Earth.
Further, protocols put in place by NASA’s Office of Planetary Protection offer strict rules around contaminating space; sending the spacecraft towards Jupiter will minimise the likelihood of errant space junk becoming a problem in future.
Just think of how that messed up Sandra Bullock’s day in Gravity.
What are your thoughts on NASA’s Planetary Protection protocols? Is steering Juno towards a fiery death the right decision, or an utter waste of a $1.1 billion project? Be sure to let us know your opinion in the comments below!