The progress of solar innovation continues as NASA's Juno probe breaks the world record for most distant functioning solar space-craft at 493 million miles away from the earth. As it soars through space farther and farther away from the sun and towards the gas giant Jupiter, Juno overcomes obstacles and pushes the boundaries of what we can do with technology. Here is an excerpt:
The NASA probe sent to analyze and study the surface of Jupiter broke a record as the most distant solar-powered space craft in human history, according to a press release from the US space agency. The previous record-holder had been Europe's Rosetta spacecraft, launched in 2004, which traveled 492 million miles to land on a passing comet. The Juno probe still has another roughly 30 million more miles to go, which means a big lead any solar powered distance competition.
Previously, only eight spacecraft have navigated as far out into space as where Juno broke the record. All eight utilized nuclear power sources to fuel themselves.
Despite the success, it is unlikely Juno will be the start of a new trend of solar-powered exploration into the depths of space.
"Juno is all about pushing the edge of technology to help us learn about our origins," said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, in the NASA press release. "It just seems right that the sun is helping us learn about the origin of Jupiter and the other planets that orbit it."
When Juno launched in 2011, it weighed four-tons. It was equipped with three solar array, each measuring 30 feet in length, and possessing more than 18,000 individual solar cells. The rationale behind the weighty payload was logistics, according to the press release.
At Earth's distance from the sun, the equipment Juno has could have generated 14 kilowatts of electricity. In space, further away from the sun, the amount of power that can be generated from the same equipment declines dramatically. At Jupiter, sunlight will carry 25 times less power, according to NASA.