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The launch vehicle carrying NASA's Juno planetary probe starting its five-year journey from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Liftoff was at 12:25 p.m. EDT Aug. 5, 2011.

Image: NASA

Space! It's so American, right? While hordes flock to theaters for Regal's July 4th Independence Day double feature, one cohort of Portland patriots will be glued to another screen—at the Lloyd District DoubleTree—to watch in real-time as a solar-powered NASA craft drops, after five years of space travel, into orbit beneath Jupiter's radiation belts.

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Rendering of Juno and its massive solar arrays.

The cannily-timed reverse invasion—an alien stealthily gathering intelligence on the solar system's behemoth—continues NASA's string of planetary visits. (Most recently, the agency's New Horizons Mission gathered icy images of Pluto on a July 2015 flyby.) For Juno, a mission launched nearly five years ago in August 2011, the research objective is to help determine which current planet formation theory is correct—or if we need to make a new one.

By Jove, that sounds almost as exciting as watching Brent Spiner play mad scientist! Watch the distant pyrotechnics stream live from NASA at Westercon69's Juno viewing party on the evening of July 4. The guest of honor? None other than Bobak Ferdowsi, flight director for 2012's Mars Curiosity mission, a.k.a meme and heartthrob Mohawk Guy. (Obama noticed.)

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Remember this 'do? Morse code + Bobak Ferdowsi's head = meme.

Image: NASA

Ferdowsi, who's visiting Portland for the first time, sees no trade-off in spending prime fireworks time inside as Juno makes its descent into orbit:

"It’s how I would wanna spend my night," Ferdowsi told us. "Watching it, you get to share that experience with people, with the team who’s invested, in some cases, a decade of their lives to make this happen. I’m looking forward to answering questions and pointing out really interesting things people may not notice by just watching the stream alone."

Ferdowsi—who is currently working on “Europa,” an investigation of Jupiter’s moon to unveil the possible presence of water (which could have implications for the prospect of on-planet life and potential human habitability)—plans to make the most of his Portland visit.

"Portland has very good beer and I hear very good things about the food," he says. "I envision Portland as a very creative place—I’m excited to visit and meet people."

Westercon 69's Juno Viewing Party takes place on July 4 from 7-10 PM at the DoubleTree Hotel, 1000 NE Multnomah St.

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