Notes on “Juno” by Distance to Jupiter

The 4-track Juno EP was released on November 22nd, 2016. It was recorded May through October, 2016, with final processing of both audio and visual components throughout November.

Juno is a spacecraft that left the Earth in 2011. Launched by NASA/JPL, its primary purpose was to unlock the secrets of the solar system’s largest planet, Jupiter. These are some background notes about the tracks.

“Juno (Five-Year Journey)” – Track #1 represents the cruise phase, with the listener along for the ride. It took Juno five years to reach Jupiter after launch. The spacecraft existed in a state of hibernation for most of the trip, but at certain key junctures, Juno awakened to perform course corrections or other scientific activities. The metallic drones, chirps, and chaotic string sequences represent the deep space network NASA uses to communicate with its spacecraft; the day-to-day; the maintenance. Then Juno slept, to await arrival. When she next opened her eyes, Jupiter loomed ahead. Around the 3:30 mark of the track, epic swells engulf the listener as the spacecraft begins to pierce the solar system’s strongest magnetic field and most lethal radiation belts.

“Juno (Orbit Insertion)” – Track #2 represents Juno slowing down, and the beat gives us the reference. We’re about to go into orbit. Radiation is increasing. Each moment could bring disaster. Tension is mounting, not only on the spacecraft, but back in mission control in Pasadena, CA at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. But there is beauty here – staggering vistas of the solar system’s largest planet. The plaintive melodic sets of tones that hover above the beat are the voice of Juno. The synthetic guitars herald the stresses of orbital insertion. Tempo doubles. The pace quickens. And a droning guitar greets us like a protesting howl, the voice of secretive Jupiter itself. A conversation ensues between Juno and her estranged husband. Juno is in orbit now.

“Juno (Unlocking Secrets)” – Track #3 represents the regular communication between Juno and NASA via the deep space network. It is constant. The spacecraft is performing its science duties, pulling in data, probing the secrets which are locked away within Jupiter’s massive atmosphere. This track is all about discovery. Out of the data stream comes a clearer picture – one of beauty, chaos, and unimaginable forces. The background noise – an atmosphere – is a sea of data waiting to be explored. The unearthly swells are measured, relentless, beautiful, repeated. Understanding grows at 2:20; the picture becomes clear as an alien arpeggio fades in. Secrets are unlocked with a key of astonishing complexity – the Juno spacecraft itself. The track fades, and Juno’s time is up.

“Juno (Deorbit)” – Track #4 represents the fact that all things must end. For Juno, the end will arrive during its 37th orbit of Jupiter. A deorbit burn will be executed, placing the spacecraft on a trajectory that will reset its point of closest approach to the planet to an altitude that is below the cloud tops at 34 degrees North Jupiter latitude. Juno is not designed to operate inside an atmosphere and will burn to ash. She will be studying her mate throughout this final plunge, sending data back to us for as long as she can. The haunting strings of a bandura mix solemnly with the sounds of impact, of thunder, and the sounds of distress. A strained arpeggio grows as the pressure and heat rise. Juno sends her final batch of data. We can’t follow and witness only a thunderous, fiery implosion in the fade.

UPDATE: In June, 2018, NASA extended the Juno mission through at least July 2021; the spacecraft still faces a fiery demise: “When Juno’s work is done, the probe will be de-orbited intentionally into Jupiter’s thick atmosphere, to ensure that the spacecraft doesn’t contaminate the potentially life-supporting Jovian moon Europa with microbes from Earth.”

‘Juno (Arrival)’ is the demo verison of what became ‘Juno (Orbit Insertion)’.

Juno is $4US on Bandcamp in 24bit/96kHz format. It can also be obtained in standard 16bit/44kHz format from iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Music, and most other digital music retailers. It can also be streamed on Spotify, Apple Music, Napster, or just about any other streaming service you can think of.

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