On Monday, while most of the country is gazing at fireworks and munching on hamburgers, the team behind NASA's space probe Juno will be huddled over computer monitors and biting their fingernails as the craft enters Jupiter's orbit.

The space agency seems to enjoy making its employees work on the holiday; the folks at Space.com reminded us Friday that there have been three landings and three launches on July 4. Another milestone — the arrival of the first Mars lander Viking 1 — was set for Independence Day during the country's bicentennial but had to be rescheduled when project officials found that the original intended landing site was full of potholes.

"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.

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