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This 38-month Venus-Earth-Earth Gravity Assist phase (see figure) ended with the second Earth flyby on December 8, 1992. It provided, in addition to the velocity increment, opportunities for useful scientific observations and an exercise of the spacecraft's scientific capabilities.

Galileo's two planned visits to the asteroid belt provided the first and second opportunities for close observation of these bodies: in October 1991 the spacecraft flew by asteroid Gaspra, obtaining the world's first close-up asteroid images; in August 1993 it flew by a second asteroid, Ida, and discovered the first confirmed asteroid moon.

In late July 1994 Galileo was the only observer in a position to obtain images of the far side of Jupiter when more than 20 fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy plunged into the night-side atmosphere over a 6-day period.

In December 1995 the Galileo atmospheric probe conducted a direct examination of Jupiter's atmosphere for approximately one hour, (see figure) while the larger part of the craft, the orbiter, began a 23-month, 11-orbit tour of the magnetosphere and the Galilean moons, including ten close satellite encounters (see figure).

Galileo's orbital science results were transmitted to Earth over the low-gain antenna at significantly lower data rates than originally planned, because of the in-flight failure of the high-gain antenna to deploy as commanded in April 1991. The Project team has developed means to transmit the key scientific data and to accomplish the Project's Jupiter science objectives, using on-board data processing and compression, and various enhancements to the communications link performance, including new encoding systems and advanced technology in ground equipment.

The 2,223-kilogram (2-1/2-ton) Galileo orbiter spacecraft carries 10 scientific instruments; there are another six on the 339-kilogram (746-pound) probe. The spacecraft radio link to Earth and the probe-to-orbiter radio link serve as instruments for additional scientific investigations.

Galileo communicates with its controllers and scientists through the Deep Space Network, using tracking stations in California, Spain and Australia.

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