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The Galileo Spacecraft

The @stro object for the week of 02/21/2000

Galileo Spacecraft

image courtesy of JPL

The Galileo Spacecraft. On October 18, 1989 the Galileo spacecraft, named for the famous Jovian observer Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), began its journey to Jupiter and its moon system after being launched from the Space Shuttle Atlantis. It arrived at Jupiter and entered orbit on December 7, 1995. The spacecraft was made up of the Galileo Orbiter and Galileo Probe. The Probe was dropped from the Orbiter on December 7, 1995 and made a slow decent through Jupiter's highly turbulent upper atmosphere returning scientific data including information on Jupiter's pressure, temperature, density, lightening, wind speed and other readings before its signal was lost.

The Galileo Orbiter has completed several orbits around Jupiter and continues to operate well beyond its expected capacity. In fact, the Orbiter has received more than twice the radiation than it was built to survive. It has investigated many of Jupiter's moons, the ring system, radiation belts and thousands of images have been returned to scientists on Earth. It has provided more evidence for remarkable theories, such as the theory that Europa contains liquid water beneath its icy surface. The original mission for the Orbiter was due to last two years and ended in December, 1997. However, the Orbiter entered an extended mission that it is currently operating in. The extended mission was supposed to end in January, 2000 but was extended again.

On February 22, 2000 Galileo will make its third pass by Io and execute its lowest flyby of that active moon, flying only 200 kilometers (124 miles) from its volcanic surface. During a low flyby in October 1999, the Orbiter went into safe mode due to extreme radiation from Jupiter. It is expected that a similar problem may occur this time around as well. Among other goals of this flyby is the chance to view the results of eruptions viewed during the previous Io encounters.

Current information for the Galileo Spacecraft:
Mission: Exploration of the Jupiter system
Launch Date: Oct. 18, 1989
Arrival at Jupiter: Dec. 7, 1995
Probe dropped into Jupiter's Atmosphere: Dec. 7, 1995
Expected completion date of mission: Jan 2000, but was extended

more info on the Galileo Mission

more info on the Galileo Probe

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