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About Galileo

Description of Galileo

Launched on October 18, 1989, the Galileo spacecraft has used planetary gravity assists to put itself on a trajectory to Jupiter. This technique allows the spacecraft to change velocity as it passes close by a planet. During Galileo's six-year path to Jupiter it has travelled past Venus once and Earth twice, with two passes through the asteroid belt that provided flybys of Gaspra and Ida.

Galileo consists of two principal parts: an orbiter and an atmospheric probe. The probe was released from the orbiter 148 days before arrival at Jupiter and entered Jupiter's atmosphere to study the temperature, pressure and composition of the cloud layers and relay its data back to the orbiter. The Galileo probe arrived at Jupiter on December 7, 1995. Preliminary details about what the Probe discovered is available from the Galileo Probe home pages.

Now complete with the probe mission, the Galilo is in orbit about Jupiter. During its two year orbital mission, close flybys are planned of the Galilean satellites Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto (one each on ten of eleven orbits). Io, another Galilean moon, was scheduled to be visited with a close flyby just prior to the probe entry into Jupiter; however, this activity was cancelled due to a tape recorder problem . Galileo will also study Jupiter's atmosphere and magnetosphere during each of its orbits around Jupiter.