|Galileo Descent Module. Source: NASA|
Named after the Italian astronomer Galileo, the Galileo probe was launched from Cape Canaveral on October 18, 1989. It was carried by the space shuttle Atlantis. It was the first probe ever to become a satellite of one of the outer planets in our solar system. It was also the first time that instruments had been lowered into the atmosphere of Jupiter.
Galileo's initial trajectory comprised two flybys of Earth, and one flyby of Venus. This was done in order to make up for insufficient power at launch. En route, Galileo flew by the asteroids of Gaspra and Ida and relayed images of them back to the Earth. When the Comet Shoemaker-Levy flew into Jupiter's atmosphere in 1994, the Galileo craft was there to relay images of this encounter back to Earth.
The Galileo space craft had already been in flight for thirty-eight months when it arrived at Jupiter. It was then that a atmospheric probe was released from within the Galileo orbiter in order to study and photograph Jupiter. After being deployed, the probe detected powerful storm winds of 600 kilometers/hour in the planet's atmosphere. Meanwhile, the orbiter continued to orbit Jupiter with varying orbits. This enabled it to have close encounters with Jovian moons including Io, Europa and Ganymede. These encounters allowed observations which revealed the presence of ice on Europa and the presence of oxygen in the atmosphere of Ganymede. During the flight of the orbiter, its high gain antenna failed to work; this forced the use of the low gain antennas at much less-than-planned data rates. However, Galileo is still continuing its observations, and has proven itself to be tremendously useful.
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