NASA Jupiter probe's software enters 'safe mode' just before flyby

NASA's Juno spacecraft has gone into 'safe mode,' stopping it from gathering data just before its second close flyby of the gas giant. 

Juno Flying by Jupiter: Artist Illustration

NASA's Juno spacecraft has encountered its second problem at Jupiter in less than a week.

The probe went into a protective "safe mode" at 1:47 a.m. EDT (0547 GMT) this morning (Oct. 19), preventing the spacecraft from gathering any data during today's highly anticipated second close flyby of the solar system's largest planet, NASA officials said.

"At the time safe mode was entered, the spacecraft was more than 13 hours from its closest approach to Jupiter," Juno project manager Rick Nybakken, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement today. [Awesome Jupiter Photos by NASA's Juno]

"We were still quite a ways from the planet's more intense radiation belts and magnetic fields," Nybakken added in the same statement. "The spacecraft is healthy, and we are working our standard recovery procedure."

Juno went into safe mode when a "software-performance monitor" caused the probe's onboard computer to reboot, NASA officials said. The issue is not related to an apparent problem with a set of valves in Juno's propulsion system, the officials added.

The valve issue, which was publicly disclosed Friday (Oct. 14), caused Juno's handlers to postpone the spacecraft's final engine burn. The maneuver was originally scheduled to take place during today's close Jupiter flyby; it would have shifted Juno from the spacecraft's current, highly elliptical, 53-day orbit to a 14-day path — the probe's final science orbit.

The earliest this burn can now be performed is Dec. 11, during Juno's next Jupiter close encounter, NASA officials have said.

The $1.1 billion Juno mission launched in August 2011 and arrived at the gas giant this past July 4. Juno's main science goal involves mapping out Jupiter's internal structure, composition, gravity and magnetic fields in detail. This information should reveal key insights about how Jupiter, and the rest of the solar system, formed and evolved, mission team members have said.

The original plan calls for Juno to circle Jupiter more than 30 times in the final 14-day orbit before the mission wraps up in February 2018. The spacecraft gathers most of its useful data during each orbit's close flyby; at most other times, Juno is quite far from Jupiter.

Juno's first close flyby (after the July 4 orbital insertion) occurred on Aug. 27.

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook or Google+. Originally published on

Editor's Recommendations

[Editor's note: An earlier version of this story's headline implied that Juno's software performed less gracefully than it actually did. The Monitor regrets the error.]

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to NASA Jupiter probe's software enters 'safe mode' just before flyby
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today