Saturday, October 18, 2014

Tonight's Sky for October 18: Galileo Launched (1989)

It was on this date in 1989 that the Galileo space probe was launched for Jupiter by way of the space shuttle Atlantis aboard the STS-34 mission after a 3-year delay resulting from the Challenger disaster in January, 1986. At the time of its arrival at Jupiter in December, 1995, Galileo was the first space probe to ever orbit an outer planet. Besides returning mountains of data about Jupiter including information on its atmosphere, magnetic field, and ring system, Galileo also made extensive observations of the Jovian moons, providing far more data than the Voyagers did with their quick flyby almost 2 decades beforehand. The mission ended in 2003 when, almost out of fuel, the probe was steered into Jupiter's atmosphere in order to avoid the risk of contaminating the Moons should the probe crash there. To date, Galileo is the last mission to Jupiter.  

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