The pass took the four ton probe 350 miles over the southern tip of South Africa at 3:21 p.m., EDT, accelerating Juno to 87,000 miles per hour with respect to the sun.
Despite the problem, ``we believe we are on track as planned to Jupiter,'' said project manager Rick Nybakken of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the Juno mission, according to the Associated Press.
Safe mode reflects a spacecraft issue that requires intervention from ground based flight control teams. During safe mode, the spacecraft's function is restricted while ground control teams sort the issue out, then send commands returning the probe to normal operations.
Launched Aug. 5, 2011 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Juno followed a looping trajectory through the inner solar system that provided enough energy to reach the asteroid belt. The mission trajectory permitted the probe to be pulled back by the sun's gravity toward the Earth with a pair of spacecraft maneuvers for the significant Oct. 9 gravity assist.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems, of Denver, Colo, builder of the spacecraft, is responsible for day to day operations. The Juno mission was developed by JPL, which was permitted to provide overall mission management during the U. S. government shutdown but constrained from hosting news briefings or issuing mission statements using NASA websites. Levin spoke with Slooh.com from Denver, where he was attending an astronomy conference.