- US spacecraft launched in 1989 which did large amounts of first-rate science despite the failure of its main communications antenna designed to keep it in touch with Earth before its destruction in 2003. It flew by Venus in 1990 and the Earth/Moon system twice, in 1990 and 1992, to gather energy for a trip deep into the solar system. These visits also generated useful images of the Earth’s and Venus’s atmosphere and of the Moon’s North pole. Thereafter it flew close to the asteroids 951 Gaspra and 243 Ida en route to an arrival at Jupiter in December 1995. Its primary mission was a complex orbit designed to produce detailed images of the Jovian clouds and of Jupiter’s satellites, and to produce other data like readings of magnetic fields. In January 1996 it sent a parachute probe into the massive atmosphere of Jupiter to provide the first data on its composition, temperature and pressure. It detected winds of up to 500kph and severe turbulence in Jupiter’s atmosphere along with a surprising dearth of water, during a descent 150km into Jupiter’s clouds. At this depth, an hour after beginning its descent into the clouds, the probe encountered pressures 22 times those of the Earth’s atmosphere at sea level and temperatures of 150°C. Galileo began its Jupiter researches in 1994 by making observations of the impact of comet Shoemaker Levy 9 with the planet. But the antenna problem meant that most of the pictures were never seen on Earth – only 14,000 were able to be transmitted, far fewer than the planned total. After its primary mission ended in 1997, Galileo undertook an extended mission including flybys of the moons Europa and Io, and in 2002 it measured the mass of the moon Amalthea. It was sent into the atmosphere of Jupiter in 2003 to prevent possible contamination of Jupiter’s moons.
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