Sunday, 7 August 2011

Juno probe heads for Jupiter from Cape Canaveral

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The Atlas 5 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station after a brief delay caused by a helium leak

A $1.1bn (£0.7bn) unmanned Nasa space mission has launched from Florida on a journey to the planet Jupiter.

The Juno spacecraft will cruise beyond Mars to put itself in orbit around the gas giant in 2016. It is the first solar-powered mission to venture this far from the Sun.

The mission launched atop an Atlas 5 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Friday at 12:25 local time (16:25 GMT; 17:25 BST), after a brief delay caused by a helium leak.

There were concerns with the helium charging system on the rocket's Centaur upper stage, but a small leak on the "ground side" of the rocket was found to be the culprit.  “Today, with the launch of the Juno spacecraft, Nasa began a journey to yet another new frontier," said the agency's administrator Charles Bolden.

"The future of exploration includes cutting-edge science like this to help us better understand our Solar System and an ever-increasing array of challenging destinations."

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