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Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft returns to normal after glitch

Image: Juno
An artist's conception shows NASA's Juno probe sailing past Earth on its way to Jupiter.NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI

LOS ANGELES — Scientists say NASA's Jupiter-bound spacecraft is operating normally again after looping around Earth to catapult to the outer solar system.

The Southwest Research Institute, which leads the mission's science operations, said the Juno probe came out of safe mode at 5:12 p.m. ET Friday. Safe mode is a protective state that a spacecraft is programmed to go into when it senses that something is wrong.

Juno hit a snag earlier this week after it flew past Earth to increase its speed to barrel beyond the asteroid belt to Jupiter. Friday's status report did not say what caused the probe to enter safe mode.

"The Juno science team is continuing to analyze data acquired by the spacecraft's science instruments during the flyby," the report said. "Most data and images were downlinked prior to the safe mode event."

The science team said Juno's safe-mode status "did not impact the spacecraft's trajectory one smidgeon." The probe is on target to slip into orbit around Jupiter in 2016.

Juno was launched in 2011 and flew beyond the orbit of Earth's closest planetary neighbor, Mars, before looping back toward our home planet for a close encounter.

More about Juno and Jupiter:

This report includes additional information from the Southwest Research Institute.