The Juno spacecraft launched today on an Atlas 5 rocket on a five-year journey to Jupiter. Once there it will spend around a year understanding the origin and evolution of Jupiter. It will survey Jupiter and its moons to gather detailed information on the the Jovian magnetic field and hopefully determine if there is a solid core beneath the swirling clouds. This will help scientists understand how the gas giants formed and how they shaped the nature of the solar system.
The mission will be the first to fly beyond the asteroid belt using only solar power. Previous missions to Jupiter, Saturn and beyond have relied on some kind of nuclear power source. In order to reach Jupiter the spacecraft will be placed into an orbital trajectory that will return to Earth on October 2013 to gain a gravitational kick in order to reach Jupiter.