DENVER (CBS4) – It’s a journey to Jupiter that started in Colorado. The launch of the Juno spacecraft was picture perfect.

A rocket carrying Juno lifted off from Cape Canaveral Friday morning. It will take five years to reach the solar system’s largest planet. Lockheed Martin has a lot riding on the solar powered space explorer.

CBS4 environmental specialist Paul Day was the only Denver TV reporter invited to ride along when Juno was delivered to the Kennedy Space Center last spring.

It was an anxious morning for space engineers. The lift-off was delayed 55 minutes as the launch team made absolutely sure there were no problems.

A local Lockheed team is guiding and controlling it on its long journey. Friday’s liftoff was especially meaningful to Rob Radicevich, who helped design Juno’s software.

“It’s a big deal because if that didn’t go right, then a lot of other things could not happen and it’s a very critical stage of the mission,” Radicevich said.

Separated from its rockets, Juno opened its solar panels and fired up its radios.

According to Roman mythology, Juno is Jupiter’s wife and the goddess can see through the clouds. Juno will make 33 orbits of Jupiter, enduring heavy bombardment from radioactive particles.

“It damages everything. So it tears up the space craft as it gets close. After a while the space craft will just start to die,” said Kenny Starnes, Flight Operations Manager. “We’re beating it to death with all this radiation.”

Because Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system, scientists believe unlocking its secrets will better explain how the solar system was formed.

Juno was launched atop an Atlas rocket operated by Englewood-based United Launch Alliance. The price tag of the entire NASA mission is $1.1 billion.

  1. Roger says:

    The annual budget for nasa is about 20 billion, for this mission it says 1,1 billion. The annual budget for the US Geological Survey, the principal agency for studying the earth, is about 2 billion. Would not the 1 billion be better spent to learn the geology of the deep ocean floor, for example, or to make better geologic maps of the continents themselves? How about better earthquake or tsunami predictions, or sea level rise maps?

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