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NASA's Juno spacecraft prepares for cosmic date with Jupiter

Posted at 6:15 AM, Jul 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-04 13:32:21-04

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A solar-powered spacecraft launched five years ago is spinning toward Jupiter for a close encounter with the biggest planet in our solar system.

NASA's Juno spacecraft fires its rocket engine late Monday to slow itself down from a speed of 150,000 mph (250,000 kph) and slip into orbit around Jupiter.

Juno was put on autopilot days ago, so the critical move comes without any help from ground controllers. The spacecraft's camera and other instruments were also turned off for the arrival so there won't be any pictures at the moment Juno reaches its destination.

Scientists have promised close-up views of Jupiter's poles, clouds and auroras during the 20-month, $1.1 billion mission.

The spacecraft launched on Aug. 5, 2011 from Cape Canaveral.

Juno is only the second mission designed to spend time at Jupiter. Galileo, which launched in 1989, circled Jupiter for 14 years.

RELATED LINKS:

* 10:30 pm ET -- Orbit insertion and NASA TV commentary begin

* 1 am ET on July 5 -- Post-orbit insertion briefing at Jet Propulsion Laboratory

To watch all of these events online, visit:

Live coverage on orbit insertion day also will be available online via Facebook Live at:

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