On the Fourth of July, NASA’s Juno spacecraft was the source of a light show that put to shame anything happening on the planet of its origin.

After Juno’s five-year, 1.8 billion-mile trek, NASA scientists initiated a 35-minute engine burn to slow the solar-powered spacecraft from its 40 miles-per-second trajectory to one that would allow it to be captured by Jupiter’s gravity.

Some engineers have described it as the trickiest maneuver NASA has ever attempted with any mission. Jupiter has the most formidable magnetic fields and radiation belts human technology has ever encountered, so there was a high probability of failure for the $1.1 billion mission.

At Mission Control, nervousness gave way to celebration once Juno confirmed it had survived the high-speed rendezvous with the oldest and largest planet in our solar system. Eventually it will maintain an elliptical orbit 3,000 miles above clouds that could dwarf Earth’s continents in size. Jupiter is 300 times more massive than Earth.

Once all of Juno’s instruments are back online, its main job will be to map the world beneath those mysterious clouds. Scientists want to find out if the gas giant has a solid core and whether its atmosphere contains water. NASA also wants to know why Jupiter’s northern and southern lights are so active above the poles.

Because of Jupiter’s status in the birth order of our solar system, we are finally in a position to learn things about conditions that led to the formation of Earth and its neighboring planets. Beginning in August, Juno will provide scientists with the closest encounters we’ve ever had with Jupiter thanks to multiple flybys.

The Juno mission may be one of NASA’s finest hours yet.