Did you know...
...that Galileo's orbital tour consists of eleven elliptical orbits?
...that the Galileo project was named after Italian scientist Galileo Galilei?
...that Galileo Galilei's middle finger and vertebra are on display in Italy?
Galileo is a NASA spacecraft mission to Jupiter, launched October 18, 1989, and designed to study the planet's atmosphere, satellites and surrounding magnetosphere for 2 years starting in December 1995. It was named for the Italian Renaissance scientist who discovered Jupiter's major moons in 1610 with the first astronomical telescope.
This mission will be the first to make direct measurements from an instrumented probe within Jupiter's atmosphere, and the first to conduct long-term observations of the planet and its magnetosphere and satellites from orbit around Jupiter. It is already the first to encounter an asteroid, and to photograph an asteroid's moon.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory designed and developed the Galileo Jupiter orbiter spacecraft and is operating the mission; NASA's Ames Research Center developed the atmospheric probe with Hughes Aircraft Company as prime contractor. The German government is a partner in the mission through its provision of the spacecraft propulsion subsystem and two science experiments. Scientists from six nations are participating in the mission.
Like Voyager and some other previous interplanetary missions, Galileo used planetary gravitational fields as auxiliary propulsion stages. The spacecraft dipped into the gravitational fields of Venus and Earth to pick up enough velocity to get to Jupiter. This 38-month Venus-Earth-Earth gravity assist phase 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 orbital science results will be transmitted to Earth over the low-gain antenna at significantly lower data rates than originally planned, because the high-gain antenna failed 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.
Galileo Home Page - JPL site, very thorough, images, news, etc.
NASA Spacelink: Galileo - Galileo images, links, and information
* This text was adapted from the JPL Galileo Home Page.