NASA launching solar-powered spacecraft to explore Jupiter

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(Photo: Associated Press)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA has launched a robotic explorer to Jupiter.

The spacecraft, named Juno, blasted off aboard an unmanned rocket Friday from Cape Canaveral. It will take Juno five years to reach the largest planet in the solar system.

Juno is solar powered with three huge panels, a first for a spacecraft intended to roam so far from the sun. The total mission costs $1.1 billion.

Scientists hope to discover the recipe for making planets, by identifying Jupiter's secret ingredients. The gas giant is believed to be the solar system's oldest planet.

Attached to Juno are three little Lego figures. They represent the Italian physicist Galileo, who discovered Jupiter's biggest moons; the Roman god Jupiter; and his wife Juno, for whom the spacecraft is named.

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