Reach for the stars

Putting a spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter is a colossal achievement, but are we impressed?

Juno captured aurora on the north pole of Jupiter. NASA / ESA / Hubble via AP
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Are we getting more difficult to impress when it comes to epic space exploration? This week, Nasa successfully put the Juno spacecraft into orbit around Jupiter after a five-year mission that involved a complex route that exploited the gravitation fields of the Earth, the sun and Jupiter.

By any measure, this was a mammoth technical achievement – but are people becoming blasé after a spate of similar accomplishment? After all, last year Nasa’s New Horizons spacecraft travelled more than 10 times as far to do the first fly-past of Pluto and the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft achieved the arguably more difficult task of landing on a comet.

Are we spoiled by success, or are the CGI effects of space movies such as Gravity and Interstellar making real life seem less impressive? We ought to pause to consider that it is less than 60 years since the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1 became the first human object in space. Juno’s achievement is truly reaching for the stars.