PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — A Jupiter-bound spacecraft is set to fire its engine for an important maneuver intended to bring it back toward Earth.
The engine burn Thursday afternoon is the first of two maneuvers planned to set up NASA’s Juno spacecraft to use Earth’s gravity to accelerate it toward the outer solar system.
The second engine firing is set for next week and the Earth fly-by will be in 2013.
Juno launched last year from Florida and is due to arrive at Jupiter in 2016. It’s currently about 300 million miles from Earth.
Once in orbit around the poles, Juno will peer through the cloud cover to learn more about the evolution of the giant gas planet.