NASA's Galileo Spacecraft: Launch Preparations | August 3, 1989
August 3, 1989: In the Vertical Processing Facility (VPF), the spacecraft Galileo is prepared for mating with the Inertial Upper Stage booster. Galileo changed the way we look at our solar system. The spacecraft was the first to fly past an asteroid and the first to discover a moon of an asteroid. It provided the only direct observations of a comet colliding with a planet. Galileo was the first to measure Jupiter's atmosphere with a descent probe and the first to conduct long-term observations of the Jovian system from orbit. It found evidence of subsurface saltwater on Europa, Ganymede and Callisto and revealed the intensity of volcanic activity on Io.The Galileo Mission (1989-2003)
The Galileo mission consisted of two spacecraft: an orbiter and an atmospheric probe. Launched during the STS-34 flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis, the two spacecraft were kicked out of Earth orbit by an inertial upper stage (IUS) rocket, sending them careening through the inner solar system. The trajectory which the spacecraft followed was called a VEEGA (Venus-Earth-Earth Gravity Assist), traveling first in toward the Sun for a gravity assist from Venus before encountering the Earth two times (spaced two years apart). These encounters with Venus and the Earth allowed Galileo to gain enough velocity to get it out to Jupiter.
During the flybys of Venus and the Earth, Galileo scientists took the opportunity to study these two planets as well as the Moon, making some unprecedented observations as a result. In addition, following each Earth flyby, Galileo made excursions as far out in the solar system as the asteroid belt, enabling scientists to make the first close-up studies of two asteroids, Gaspra and Ida. As is this were not sufficient, Galileo scientists were fortunate to be the only ones with a direct view of the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 fragment impacts on Jupiter. All of this was prior to the primary missions of sending an atmospheric probe into Jupiter's atmosphere and studying Jupiter, its satellites, and its magnetosphere for two years with the orbiter.
The flight team for Galileo ceased operations on February 28, 2003 and Galileo coasted, unattended, before transmitting a few hours of science measurements during its September 21, 2003 plunge into Jupiter's atmosphere.
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