ME and Ophelia

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Nasa retires its probe in a blaze of glory

For some amazing pictures see Galileo Project and here for the BBC news picture story entitled "The last journey". [Note: this post was updated on Sunday Sep 20, 2003]

In "The last journey" you will see great images, an interesting diagram of Galileo on page 5, and these neat snippets:

Galileo is ending its mission by making a plunge into Jupiter's atmosphere, where it will burn up and disintegrate.

The craft is running low on fuel and could collide with one of Jupiter's moons, Europa.

Europa has saltwater lakes under its surface that could harbour life. Nasa wants to ensure they are not contaminated.

Galileo Galilei
The space probe is named after Galileo Galilei, the Italian astronomer, mathematician and physicist.

Galileo perfected the reflecting telescope and discovered Jupiter's major moons in 1610.

The planet's four largest (Galilean) moons - Io, Ganymede, Europa and Callisto - are big enough to be seen from Earth with a telescope.

Pioneer 10
The first space craft to visit Jupiter was Nasa's Pioneer 10, launched in 1972.

It flew past the planet in December 1973, becoming the first probe to travel through the asteroid belt to encounter an outer planet.

Pioneer 11
Pioneer 10 and its successor, Pioneer 11, captured close-up images of the largest planet in the Solar System.

This picture shows Jupiter's Great Red Spot, which appears to be a huge anti-cyclone made up of swirling clouds of red gases.

Other space craft have flown past Jupiter since - Voyager 1 and 2, in 1979, and Ulysses in 1992.

The launch (see diagram of probe on page 5)
The idea behind Galileo was to get an even closer look at Jupiter by sending a probe to orbit the planet.

Galileo was launched from the space shuttle Atlantis in 1989.

It encountered several asteroids on the long voyage to Jupiter, arriving at the planet in 1995.

First Jupiter orbit
Galileo became the first space craft to enter orbit around Jupiter and to release a probe into its stormy atmosphere.

Its tour of Jupiter included close encounters with the Galilean moons.

It has flown around Jupiter 35 times and made 34 passes of its moons.

14 years of exploration
Galileo has returned hundreds of images and masses of scientific data in the past 14 years of exploration.

It has discovered the largest volcanoes in the Solar System, on Io, and evidence of oceans under the ice of the moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

There is a possibility that life could exist in the depths of these oceans.

Preserving Europa
Galileo will bow out with a fiery plunge into the Jovian atmosphere.

It will send back some final data about Jupiter's atmosphere before it is torn apart.

The death dive will mark the end of one of Nasa's most successful unmanned space missions.

[With thanks to the author of above extracts, courtesy of BBC NEWS online, UK Edition].

BBC NEWS online, UK Edition is my opening screen home page. You can easily tailor BBC News Home Page to suit your country of interest and wherever you are situated in the world. BBC NEWS can also provide BBC Headlines for your site.

Further reading - see post below dated Sunday, September 14, 2003:
"WHAT GALILEO SAW, Nasa's troubled mission to Jupiter, and its triumph".
# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 9/20/2003
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