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OFJ Field Journal from Robert Gounley - 12/8/95

Today is the 8th of December, the day after Galileo's arrival at Jupiter. There is so much to write about. Unfortunately, there are many pressing obligations to finish before doing the fun stuff. There will be journal entries describing my day, I promise.

For now, one brief story says it all. In one corner of JPL's main plaza, a large black sign shows a map of the solar system. On it are movable symbols for the planets and the spacecraft JPL flies. Since Galileo's launch six years ago, everyone on Lab watched Galileo's symbol loop around the diagram, leaving a dashed-line trail behind it. At first, flybys of Venus and Earth bent Galileo's trail and each loop around the Sun grew longer and higher. For the past three years, the trail led directly to Jupiter. Each day, Galileo's symbol and Jupiter's symbol inched closer and closer.

All the while, the flight team fought problems with Galileo's High-Gain Antenna, propulsion system, and tape recorder. On the 7th of December the Probe would have to survive intense accelerations, temperatures, and pressures before collecting atmospheric data. Hundreds of thousands of kilometers above, the Orbiter would have to collect the Probe's weak radio signal all perform a long rocket burn to brake into orbit -- while its own electronics endure radiation levels that would quickly kill an unprotected human. There could be no second chances. Would it all work?

This morning, a glorious Californian Autumn day, someone tacked a small sign onto the map. It said, "BINGO!".

 

 
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