NASA spacecraft zips by Earth en route to Jupiter

Associated Press
FILE - This 2010 artist's rendering depicts NASA's Juno spacecraft with Jupiter in the background. NASA's Jupiter-bound spacecraft will swing by Earth for one last visit Wednesday Oct. 9, 2013 before speeding to the outer solar system. Wednesday's flyby allows the Juno spacecraft to gather the momentum it needs to arrive at Jupiter in 2016. (AP Photo/NASA/JPL, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — NASA's Jupiter-bound spacecraft has swung by Earth in a flyby designed to boost its speed for the long trip toward the outer solar system.

The Juno spacecraft flew within 350 miles of the Earth's surface just off the coast of South Africa, shortly before 12:30 p.m. PDT Wednesday.

The European Space Agency and NASA say ground controllers in Australia received a signal from the spacecraft about 20 minutes later.

Previous missions to Jupiter and Saturn have also used Earth as a gravity slingshot.

Juno was launched in 2011, hurtling beyond the orbit of Mars before looping back toward Earth. The Earth flyby increased its speed to 87,000 mph relative to the sun.

It will arrive at Jupiter in 2016 for a yearlong study of the giant planet's atmosphere and interior.