So Juno is now safely in orbit around Jupiter, and NASA scientists are triumphant, celebrating it as the “hardest thing NASA’s ever done.” They may not be wrong. No spacecraft has ever passed so close to Jupiter before. Jupiter’s radiation belts can deliver a dose of 200,000 Grays, which is enough radiation to kill any life and almost any electronics on Earth. Getting a spacecraft to pass through and survive is really very impressive!
But a thing which I’m always impressed by with spacecraft is slightly simpler. Their speeds. While I was watching the live simulation, the highest speed I saw Juno make on its closest approach to Jupiter (perijovion?) was a blistering 208400 km/h.
Speeds used in interplanetary travel are difficult to fully comprehend because we don’t really have any reference for comparison. NASA made this helpful little graphic to try and show it…
…but I think this image doesn’t quite show it correctly. So I made one with the speeds actually to scale.
Note that this isn’t the same speed which I saw for Juno. I’m going by NASA’s graphic here, and I’m assuming they have accurate values. For most of us, being in an airliner travelling long haul is probably the fastest speed we’ll ever travel at. And that’s just a tiny blip compared to the speeds which Juno reached.
Puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?