NASA just nailed one of its most ambitious missions to date by setting the Juno space probe in orbit around Jupiter, but the space agency also sent along a LEGO minifig to keep an eye on things.
As part of the Juno payload (Juno is, of course, named after Jupiter’s mythological wife), NASA included minifigs of Galileo Galilei (who discovered the planet), as well as the Roman gods Jupiter and Juno. The special minifigs were provided by LEGO and are built from aluminum instead of the usual plastic, making them a little tougher to survive the journey. The effort was part of a push by LEGO to get kids interested in science, but let's be honest, it’s just awesome.
The minifigs look to be the first LEGOs to leave orbit, since the mission launched in 2011, well before Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen brought some LEGO sets to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2015.
As for Juno itself, the mission is set in a polar orbit to study the planet’s composition, ranging from the magnetic field to the gravity field. The mission is aimed at searching for intel on how the planet formed, how much water might be present, and the planet’s internal makeup.
(Via The A.V. Club)