LEGO and Galileo go to Jupiter!

LEGO figurines aboard Juno

Three LEGO figurines representing the Roman god Jupiter, his wife Juno and Galileo Galilei are shown here aboard the Juno spacecraft.

  • Juno unmanned spacecraft set for launch to Jupiter
  • Will carry three LEGO figurines of famous characters
  • Will also carry a plaque of Galileo’s writings

THREE LEGO FIGURINES AND A PLAQUE depicting Galileo’s writings are set to launch to Jupiter at the end of this week.

The inclusion of the three 4cm-tall mini-statues, or figurines, is part of a joint public outreach and educational program developed as part of the partnership between NASA and the LEGO Group to inspire children to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

In Greek and Roman mythology, Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief. From Mount Olympus, Juno was able to peer through the clouds and reveal Jupiter’s true nature. Juno holds a magnifying glass to signify her search for the truth, while her husband holds a lightning bolt.

The third LEGO crewmember is Galileo Galilei, who made several important discoveries about Jupiter, including the four largest satellites of Jupiter (named the Galilean moons in his honour). The miniature Galileo has his telescope with him on the journey.

Galileo’s plaque

Among his many achievements, Galileo Galilei discovered that moons orbited Jupiter in 1610. These satellites—Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto—are also known as the Galilean moons.

The plaque, which was provided by the Italian Space Agency, measures 71 by 51 millimetres, is made of flight-grade aluminium and weighs six grams. It was bonded to Juno’s propulsion bay with a spacecraft-grade epoxy.

Juno plaque dedicated to Galileo Galilei

A plaque dedicated to the famous astronomer Galileo Galilei will be carried aboard NASA's Juno spacecraft on its journey to Jupiter.

The graphic on the plaque depicts a self-portrait of Galileo. It also includes—in Galileo’s own hand—a passage he wrote in 1610 of his observations of Jupiter, archived in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Florence.

Galileo’s text included on the plaque reads as follows: “On the 11th it was in this formation—and the star closest to Jupiter was half the size than the other and very close to the other so that during the previous nights all of the three observed stars looked of the same dimension and among them equally afar; so that it is evident that around Jupiter there are three moving starsinvisible till this time to everyone.”

Artist's impression of the Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter

Artist's impression of the Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter

Launch due early Saturday morning

Juno is scheduled to launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral. The solar-powered spacecraft will orbit Jupiter’s poles 33 times to find out more about the gas giant’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere and investigate the existence of a solid planetary core.

The launch period for Juno opens August 6, 2011, and extends through August 26 (Sydney time zone dates). For an August 6 liftoff, the launch window opens at 1:34am and closes at 2:33am (that’s 11:34am to 12:33pm US EDT on August 5).

More information:

NASA Juno mission pages

Southwest Research Institute June mission pages

Juno mission on Twitter

Adapted from information issued by NASA / JPL. Images courtesy NASA / JPL-Caltech / KSC / LEGO.

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