NASA pre-programs spacecraft to put themselves in safe mode in case of unexpected technical troubles to prevent further problems down the line. No one knows what caused the snafu, but to the relief of all, Juno popped out of safe mode yesterday afternoon at 4:12 p.m. CDT and returned several early photos of Earth shot during the close encounter.
The flyby, which took the probe within 350 miles of the Earth’s surface, let Juno steal a bit of Earth’s gravitational energy to slingshot its way to Jupiter at a much higher speed. Juno gained some 16,330 mph (26,280 km/hr) after the close shave; the bending of its orbital path by Earth’s gravity targeted the spacecraft to within 1.24 miles (2 km) of its planned aiming point.
Well done NASA, well done. Read Ken’s complete story HERE.