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Faith and science: successful orbit of NASA's Juno spacecraft

Staff celebrate at press conference after Juno spacecraft successfully placed into Jupiter's orbit - AFP

Staff celebrate at press conference after Juno spacecraft successfully placed into Jupiter's orbit - AFP

08/07/2016 15:08

(VATICAN RADIO)  NASA's spacecraft, Juno, finished a five-year journey to Jupiter on Monday with a do-or-die engine burn to sling itself into orbit. This has set the stage for 20 months of collecting data from the biggest planet in our solar system.

Katie Ascough spoke with Jennifer Wiseman, an American astrophysicist, to find out more about this spacecraft, Juno, and its mission.


“We’re very excited because Juno will have the capacity to study all kinds of things about Jupiter and its history and that tells us all kinds of things about the solar system as a whole…We understand that Jupiter is huge and might have even become a star if it had a little bit more mass. So as we understand how Jupiter may have formed and what we’re left with in Jupiter, we understand better how the whole solar system formed.”

When asked if it is possible that Jupiter could have ever competed with the sun, Dr. Wiseman answered:  “That’s a very interesting idea; this is something that Juno will help us understand.”

Concerning the special features of this spacecraft, Juno, Dr. Wiseman pointed out that Juno derives its energy from solar power, a marvellous feat as Jupiter is over five times farther from the sun than earth is. She also described Juno’s “suite of science instruments” which together work “kind of like an orchestra using different instruments to give us different kinds of information”.  These, Dr. Wiseman said, “are going to help us understand Jupiter in a way we never have before”.

As to faith, Dr. Wiseman gave her own testimony:  “Personally, I think any kind of science exploration gives us a better sense of where we fit in this large scheme of things in the universe…When I gather new information or I learn new things about the universe, it basically gives me a deeper sense of humility and a deeper sense of wonder and awe and appreciation…of all things that are part of this Creation.”

Dr. Wiseman then described the current breakthroughs in astronomy which she, as a Christian, can “attribute to a wonderful and generous God whose creative power working through the physical forces of nature have enabled a bountiful universe”.

(Katie Ascough)
08/07/2016 15:08