Fourth of July fireworks couldn't hold a candle to the intergalactic spectacle streamed by NASA last night as its Juno probe reached Jupiter's orbit.
With just one shot at a daunting, high-risk orbital insertion manoeuvre after five years, 2.8 billion kilometres and $1.1 billion US worth of travel, ground controllers were forced to wait in suspense as their baby faced away from the sun for the first time ever and went on autopilot.
The rocket engine fired. The solar-powered satellite slowed down. Space fans watched NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory anxiously from afar, looking for signs of action among the engineers in Pasadena, Calif.
And then, after about 35 minutes of this drama, a signal came through from Juno. It had slipped into orbit. The control room exploded. History was made.
Those who witnessed the moment online set fire to Twitter, sending out passionate messages at the rate of a Walking Dead plot twist.
If Juno was the talk of the web last week, it's the toast of the web today — and the story is now nearly impossible to ignore.
Millions of Google users across the world opened up their browsers this morning to find a cute, 8-bit animated Doodle celebrating NASA's most recent achievement.
"Our #GoogleDoodle salutes @NASAJuno as it reaches Jupiter," wrote Google in a Tweet announcing the image early Tuesday. "Bravo, Juno! 👏 🎉 📷 "
The Doodle, which portrays the moment when Juno sent its first signal back to NASA on Earth, features six scientists jumping with joy as they learn of the space vehicle's successful insertion into Jupiter's orbit.
"In satellite terms, Juno is a warrior," reads a post on Google's Doodles blog. "Building the 3,500-pound device for Jupiter's brutal atmosphere took seven years and countless hours of testing. NASA scientists equipped Juno with titanium shields to withstand pummeling rocks, powerful radiation, and freezing temperatures.
"It's armour will keep it safe and working properly over its year-long polar orbit collecting data about Jupiter," the post continues. "Today's Doodle celebrates this incredible moment of human achievement."
Juno, which has surpassed Europe's comet-chasing Rosetta spacecraft to venture the furthest from Earth using solar power, will spend the next 20 months circling Jupiter's poles to help scientists study the biggest planet in our solar system.
It is hoped that the data NASA collects from this mission helps up understand the origins of our solar system and, eventually, our own planet.
Learn more about the historic Juno mission and what scientists hope it will accomplish now at CBC Technology & Science.