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NASA’s Jupiter-bound spacecraft, Juno, encounters “unknown event”

An artist's conception of Juno near Jupiter.

An artist’s conception of Juno near Jupiter.NASA says Juno, it’s spacecraft bound for Jupiter, has entered “safe mode”, something it is programmed to do when it enters into an unknown event.

AP is reporting that NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory says the spacecraft “is in contact with Earth, but is returning a low rate of data.”

Juno was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 5, 2011 to search for clues as to how Jupiter was formed and how much water is on the planet. It is expected to arrive on Jupiter on July 4, 2016. The spacecraft will travel a total distance of about 2.8 billion kilometers.

The mission was originally proposed at a cost of approximately US$700 million, but is now projected to be more than a billion dollars over budget.

The exploration of Jupiter began in 2010 American space probe Pioneer 10 and has continued with seven subsequent missions.

The shutdown of the U.S. government has grounded some space missions, but Juno launched before that happened.

“The spacecraft is going to fly by whether Congress agrees to work together or not,” Scott Bolton, Juno’s principal investigator and a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas told Scientific American.

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