NASA's Juno Mission Involves A Scientific Joke That Took 400 Years To Set Up

The Juno spacecraft has LEGO models of (from left to right) Galileo, Juno, and Jupiter on board. LEGO

Today, you’ve probably heard the news that the Juno spacecraft has entered orbit around Jupiter. But what you might not know is where the name comes from.

Juno was an ancient Roman goddess, wife and sister of Jupiter, daughter of Saturn, and mother of Mars. According to mythology, she kept watch over Rome, but in particular women.

Jupiter, though, wasn’t exactly the model husband. He had several mistresses that he would hide from Juno, often using clouds, while she tried to uncover evidence of this adultery. Most of the moons of Jupiter are actually the names of these mistresses, including Io, Europa, and Metis. 

And what’s the Juno spacecraft doing? Well, now that it's in orbit it will be peering beneath the clouds to uncover Jupiter's secrets – although this time from a scientific perspective, not a mythological one.

So, NASA’s latest spacecraft is named after a Roman goddess who suspected her husband of infidelity. Who said scientists didn't know how to have fun?

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