An artist's rendering of Juno encircling Jupiter. (Credit: NASA)

An artist’s rendering of Juno encircling Jupiter. (Credit: NASA)

A NASA spacecraft named Juno reached Jupiter on Monday, a dramatic step in America’s space goals of cutting through the clouds of the massive planet, the fifth from the sun and the largest, and unlocking the mysteries of its makeup.

Among some of the questions researchers hope to answer: How much water is on the planet? Is its core solid? Why are the northern and southern lights on Jupiter the brightest in the solar system?

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“What Juno’s about is looking beneath that surface,” said Scott Bolton, the chief scientist for the Juno mission, the Associated Press reported. “We’ve got to go down and look at what’s inside, see how it’s built, how deep these features go, learn about its real secrets.”

Scientists also want to discover more about the Great Red Spot, the visible colors on Jupiter that have puzzled for years.

The Juno mission to Jupiter, a trek of 1.8 billion miles, took almost five years and cost $1.1 billion, AP reported. And its arrival was dramatic.

Ground control operators at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Lockheed Martin broke out in applause when they learned Juno, which is armored, had broken through the radiation emanating from the planet and began circling Jupiter’s poles.

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“Juno, welcome to Jupiter,” said Lockheed Martin’s Jennifer Delavan at mission control, AP said.

Early reports indicate all went smoothly.

“Juno sang to us and it was a song of perfection,” said project manager Rick Nybakken, describing the operation during a post-mission briefing, AP reported.

Juno is only the second craft to hit Jupiter’s orbit. Galileo, a 1989 launch, provided spectacular views of the planet and its moons to U.S. researchers. But Juno will go beyond the scope of Galileo’s mission and take deeper looks at the planet’s ground itself.

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