Over the years there have been many missions to Jupiter. The latest, Juno, launched recently on August 5, 2011. The first was Pioneer 10, launched in 1972. Further details about the Jupiter missions can be found on NASA’s Jupiter web pages. Jupiter is a very large planet, with a radius of about 10 – 11 times that of earth and is at a distance of between 588 to 968 million kilometers. More details about Jupiter can be found on NASA’s Jupiter Fact Sheet.
Juno mission to Jupiter
On August 5, 2011 NASA launched the Juno Spacecraft on a five year mission to Jupiter. Juno will arrive July, 2016. The spacecraft will orbit Jupiter for about one year – which is a total of 33 orbits (Jupiter is BIG!). The mission will end with de-orbit into Jupiter. You can find out much more about this mission by visiting the NASA Juno web Pages
Cassini – 1997 Cassini is a current a mission to Saturn via Jupiter (detailed description) since Cassini was unable to reach Saturn directly with the propulsion systems of the time. Cassini made a fly-by of Jupiter on December 29, 2000. At a distance of 10 million kilometers (6.2 million miles), Cassini made a mosaic of the entire planet from 27 photos. This was the best image of Jupiter ever taken and can be seen here.
Ulysses – 1990 Ulysses was a mission to explore details of the environment above the sun’s poles (detailed description). Similar to Cassini, Ulysses used Jupiter to aid as a springboard to reach the primary target which was the sun. Ulysses first encountered Jupiter during a very close fly-by on February 8, 1992 where it made measurements of Jupiter’s magnetosphere. From November 2003 to April 2004 Ulysses was again in the vicinity of Jupiter. The mission ended June 30, 2009.
Galileo – 1989 Galileo was a mission to Jupiter in two parts – an orbiter (detailed description) and a probe (detailed description). Galileo launched 10/18/1989 aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis on STS-34. Galileo used Earth and Venus for acceleration. In December 1995 the probe was released into Jupiter.
Voyager 2 – 1977 Voyager 2 launched 8/20/1977 and was the first of a pair of spacecraft launche to explore Jupiter and Saturn (detailed description) but was plagued with problems – later overcome. Its launch date was unique in that Voyager 2’s path would also take it past Uranus and Neptune. Like Voyager 1, it contained a golden record of sounds from earth. Voyager continues to speed out of our solar system. Images from Voyager 1 and 2 can be found here.
Voyager 1 – 1977 Voyager 1 was launched on 9/5/1977 – delayed to make certain that delays caused by problems on Voyager 2 were not repeated (detailed description) – the launch was “flawless and accurate”. Although launched after Voyager 2, Voyager 1 was quicker to get to Jupiter in March of 1979. After taking 18,000 photos, cameras were turned off for nearly 9 years. In February 1990 a mosaic of 60 frames were taken to form a “family portrait” of our solar system. This portait can be seen here, and diagrams here and here.
Pioneer 11 – 1973 Pioneer 11 was launched 4/6/1973 and was was the second mission to investigate Jupiter and the outer solar system (detailed description) . Like Pioneer 10, used Jupiter’s gravitational field to alter its trajectory radically. Like Pioneer 10, it contains a plaque showing mankind and the location of the sun and earth in our galaxy. On December 3, 1974 , Pioneer 11 passed to within 43,000 km of Jupiter’s cloud tops. Fifteen experiments were carried (listed here – each entry has a link with details). On September 30, 1995 NASA stopped trying to communicate with Pioneer 11- details here.
Pioneer 10 – 1972 Pioneer 10 was launched 3/3/1972 (detailed description) and was the first mission sent to the outer solar system and the first to investigate Jupiter. It was closest to the planet on 12/4/1973 at 200,000 km. Details of the fourteen experiments carried aboard can be found here. Pioneer 10 was last heard from on January 22, 2003 – details here.