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AFP / The Hindu /CAPE CANAVERAL, August 5, 2011.
An Atlas V rocket with the Juno spacecraft lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 in Cape Canaveral, Fla. on Friday - AP.
NASA on Friday launched the billion-dollar solar-powered spacecraft Juno on a five-year journey to Jupiter.
The unmanned satellite observatory shot into space aboard a 197-foot-tall (60 metres) Atlas V rocket, blasting off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 12:25 p.m.
“Ignition and lift-off on the Atlas V with Juno on a trek to Jupiter, a planetary piece of the puzzle on the beginning of our solar system,” said a NASA television commentator.
Once it arrives in July 2016, the spacecraft will orbit the poles of the gas giant, which has more than twice the mass of all planets in the solar system combined and is believed to be the first planet that took shape around the Sun.
Named after the wife of the Roman god Jupiter, the $1.1 billion spacecraft is NASA's first mission to the planet since Galileo was launched in 1989. It aims for 30 orbits over a period of one year.
Juno will get closer to Jupiter than any other NASA spacecraft has and will be the first to undertake a polar orbit of the planet, said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator and scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.
“One of the primary goals of Juno.... is [probing] the origin of Jupiter and the origin of our solar system,” Mr. Bolton said just before the launch.
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