With the steady stream of violence and terrorism we’ve had to deal with in the last few weeks, it would be understandable if you’d missed the fact that the U.S. space probe Juno successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit the first week of July. Juno was launched in 2011 from Cape Canaveral in Florida and after its 5-year journey, will be hanging around Jupiter for the next year-and-a-half collecting data and beaming it back to the U.S.
Sadly, when it has completed its mission, Juno will begin what NASA calls its “deorbit phase.” But it won’t be jettisoned off into an intergalactic scrap heap on Jakku, with a cameo in the next Star Wars installment, or sent back home to Earth.
No, Juno will spend the final days of its existence hurling itself into Jupiter’s atmosphere so it can be incinerated.
Why is NASA taking such a specific action, flinging $1.1 billion worth of technology into a large ball of burning gas? Well, aren’t you being silly to ask. It’s to protect any (potential) alien life, of course!
NASA has even produced a touching video illustrating Juno’s cremation.
NASA’s scientists are so environmentally sensitive they don’t want to risk introducing any Earth “cooties” that may have stowed away on Juno before launch and somehow survived the 365-million-mile, 5-year journey.
Tech Insider says, Scientists currently think one of our best shots at finding living organisms beyond Earth is on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons that might have an ocean hiding underneath its frozen surface.
NASA is currently working on figuring out how to send a lander to Europa to get a better handle on whether there’s any life to be seen there. Two other Jovian moons, Ganymede and Callisto, are also on the list of contenders.
NASA and its Office of Planetary Protection have very strict rules about contaminating space, particularly when it comes to places we think we want to look for life. Logically enough, it doesn’t want to spend a billion dollars on the next spacecraft just to find some organism it turns out we put there. (Oops.)
So burning up a billion dollars in Jupiter’s atmosphere protects any potential alien life. But it’s also a very useful lesson for liberals here at home. Because burning a billion dollars is exactly what our government does back here on Earth in about two hours EVERY SINGLE DAY.
[Note: This article was written with a lightsaber by Michele Hickford]