WASHINGTON, 5th July, 2016 (WAM) — After an almost five-year journey to the solar system’s largest planet, NASA’s Juno, the solar-powered spacecraft, successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit today during a 35-minute engine burn. Confirmation that the burn had completed was received on Earth at 8:53 p.m. PDT (Pacific Daylight Time) on July 4th, (7:53 a.m. UAE time, 03:53 a.m. GMT, July 5th).

“Independence Day is always something to celebrate, but today we can add to America’s birthday another reason to cheer, Juno is at Jupiter,” said NASA administrator, Charlie Bolden. “And what is more American than a NASA mission going boldly where no spacecraft has gone before? With Juno, we will investigate the unknowns of Jupiter’s massive radiation belts to delve deep into not only the planet’s interior, but into how Jupiter was born and how our entire solar system evolved.”

Confirmation of a successful orbit insertion was received from Juno tracking data monitored at the navigation facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, JPL, in Pasadena, California, as well as at the Lockheed Martin Juno operations centre in Littleton, Colorado. The telemetry and tracking data were received by NASA’s Deep Space Network antennas in Goldstone, California, and Canberra, Australia.

“This is the one time I don’t mind being stuck in a windowless room on the night of the 4th of July,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “The mission team did great. The spacecraft did great. We are looking great. It’s a great day.”

“The spacecraft worked perfectly, which is always nice when you’re driving a vehicle with 1.7 billion miles on the odometer,” said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager from JPL. “Jupiter orbit insertion was a big step and the most challenging remaining in our mission plan, but there are others that have to occur before we can give the science team the mission they are looking for.”

Over the next few months, Juno’s mission and science teams will perform final testing on the spacecraft’s subsystems, final calibration of science instruments and some science collection.

Juno’s principal goal is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter.

WAM/AAMIR/Moran