NASA launches spacecraft on 5-year trip to Jupiter

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) ? NASA has launched a robotic explorer to Jupiter.

The spacecraft, named Juno, blasted off aboard an unmanned rocket Friday from Cape Canaveral. It will take Juno five years to reach the largest planet in the solar system.

Juno is solar powered with three huge panels, a first for a spacecraft intended to roam so far from the sun. The total mission costs $1.1 billion.

Scientists hope to discover the recipe for making planets, by identifying Jupiter’s secret ingredients. The gas giant is believed to be the solar system’s oldest planet.

Attached to Juno are three little Lego figures. They represent the Italian physicist Galileo, who discovered Jupiter’s biggest moons; the Roman god Jupiter; and his wife Juno, for whom the spacecraft is named.

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Online:

NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/juno

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) ? NASA is on the verge of launching a new solar-powered spacecraft all the way to Jupiter.

Liftoff was scheduled for 11:34 a.m. Friday at Cape Canaveral, Fla. But the countdown held at the four-minute mark as engineers tested the helium system of the unmanned rocket’s upper stage.

NASA has just over an hour to launch the robotic explorer, named Juno.

It will take Juno five years to reach Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system. The spacecraft will be powered by three huge solar panels. It will be the farthest any solar-powered craft has ever traveled. Previous Jupiter probes have relied on nuclear energy.

Juno will spend at least one year circling Jupiter’s poles.