NASA's Juno mission has been beset by delays for a while now, but the solar-powered excursion is finally scheduled to take off for Jupiter today, in the hopes of making history. Throughout the course of its five-year journey, the "armored tank" spacecraft will be powered exclusively by a trio of solar panels, each measuring nine feet wide and 30 feet long. Close to Earth, these panels will be able to generate 14 kilowatts of electricity, but as Juno ventures deeper into space, they'll crank out only 400 watts. Power, however, shouldn't be an issue, as NASA has outfitted the craft with energy efficient onboard computers, and has drawn out a route that will maximize its exposure to the sun. Juno should arrive at Jupiter by 2016 and, if all goes to plan, will ultimately travel farther than any solar-powered craft ever has. The agency expects their creation to set the record in April 2017, when it should be about 507 million miles away from the sun, eclipsing the 492 million mile mark likely to be set by Russia's sun-juiced Rosetta craft, in 2012.
Meanwhile, closer to home, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has just delivered new imagery of the Red Planet's mountains, providing perhaps the strongest evidence that water still flows there. The images reveal long, finger-like tendrils that extend down steep slopes, including the rims of craters. They appear during the summer and fade away once winter arrives, suggesting the presence of a volatile material. Researchers failed to identify water above ground, but speculate that briny water may be flowing underground. Launch past the break to see the images, in all their eight seconds of glory.
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