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NASA preparing mission to study of Jupiter

The mission is scheduled for 2011 and will take around five years to reach the solar system's largest planet.

Fans of the planet Jupiter have something new to get excited about.

On Monday, NASA announced that it is planning to launch a mission, titled Juno, to conduct a large-scale survey of our solar system's biggest planet.

NASA said Monday that it intends to pursue a mission, entitled Juno, to do an in-depth survey of Jupiter. The mission is expected to launch in 2011 and reach Jupiter in 2016. NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

According to NASA, the new mission will involve an unmanned spacecraft that is planned for an August 2011 launch onboard an Atlas rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla. It is expected that the rocket will reach its destination, orbit around Jupiter, in 2016.

Once there, the plan is for the spacecraft to orbit Jupiter 32 times over the course of a year at a distance of around 3,000 miles above the planet's cloud tops.

NASA said this would be the first solar-powered spacecraft expected to be able to perform its duties so far from the sun. Jupiter is more than four times farther away from the sun as Earth, a total of around 400 million miles.

The spacecraft would feature an advanced camera as well as a series of scientific instruments designed to inspect Jupiter's surface. Among the things NASA hopes the mission will discover or explore are the existence of an ice-rock core, the planet's strong magnetic field, and its aurora borealis.

NASA did not say how much the Juno mission is expected to cost, nor whether the project is already fully funded, and a call for comment wasn't immediately returned.