"The complication upsets NASA's hopes for landing on the red planet to celebrate the nation's 200th birthday," The Washington Post noted tersely in its coverage.
It's not exactly easy to time a five-year, 1.75-billion-mile trip to end at a particular time on a particular day, as the Viking 1 mission team can attest. But that hasn't stopped the space agency from trying. It's NASA's not-so-subtle way of reminding us that nothing says "America" like sending stuff into space.
"There's no question . . . we're putting on the dog a little bit," Larry King, NASA's public information officer, told the Associated Press during a July 4 extravaganza that included the return of the space shuttle Columbia from a research mission in 1982.
They followed that up with an Independence Day launch of a GPS satellite in 1991, the 23,000 mph collision of Deep Impact spacecraft with Comet Tempel 1 on July 4, 2005, and the launch of the space shuttle Discovery exactly a year later.
And two decades after Viking 1 messed up NASA's plans for a Hollywood-friendly Independence Day landing (starring Tom Hanks, probably), the spacecraft Pathfinder touched down on the planet on July 4, 1997.
"This is a wonderful celebration," flight system manager Brian Muirhead told The Post at the time. "This is our first interplanetary celebration of the birth of the United States."
Juno's arrival in Jupiter's orbit on Monday will be the second.