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NASA's Juno Spacecraft Breaks Solar Power Distance Record

First Posted: Jan 14, 2016 12:37 PM EST

The NASA Juno mission to Jupiter broke a solar power distance record this year, where it became one of humanity's furthest distance solar-powered emissaries. On Jan. 13, Juno was approximately 493 million miles (793 million kilometers) away from the sun, according to a NASA report.

"Juno is all about pushing the edge of technology to help us learn about our origins. We use every known technique to see through Jupiter's clouds and reveal the secrets Jupiter holds of our solar system's early history," Scott Bolton, Juno's principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute, said in a news release. "It just seems right that the sun is helping us learn about the origin of Jupiter and the other planets that orbit it."

Juno was launched in 2011 and became one of the first solar-powered spacecraft to function at such distance from the sun. Its surface area of solar panels is quite large, so that it could generate sufficient power. The Juno spacecraft weighs approximately four tons and it carries three 30-foot-long (9-meter) solar arrays which are swathed with 18,698 individual solar cells. Within the distance between the Earth and the sun, the cells can generate about 14 kilowatts of electricity.

The maximum distance between Juno and the sun during the 16-month mission will be about 517 million miles (832 million kilometers), which is a 5 percent increase on the record for solar-powered space vehicles.

"We are achieving these records and venturing so far out for a reason- to better understand the biggest world in our solar system and thereby better understand where we came from," Bolton said.

Juno is expected to arrive at Jupiter on July 4. 

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