December 6, 2010 - Galileo Gets Down to Business

Galileo Gets Down to Business After being launched from the orbiting space shuttle Atlantis in 1989, the Galileo spacecraft followed a circuitous route through the inner solar system, passing Venus once and Earth twice. Each time, the sightseeing probe stole some gravity from the planets it was passing, ultimately gaining speed to make it out to its final destination. Upon its arrival at Jupiter fifteen years ago this week, Galileo’s first order of business was to relay signals from the atmospheric entry probe it had released to measure the structure and composition of Jupiter’s atmosphere firsthand. With the probe’s hour-long mission complete, Galileo settled in to an eight-year stint orbiting Jupiter, surveying the gas giant, its ring system, and its many moons, including the volcanically active Io, above.

Image credit: NASA / JPL / University of Arizona

Weekly Calendar

December 6-12, 2010

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 6

Uranus stationary

1998: Unity and Zarya modules are connected to form International Space Station core

Moon phase Tuesday 7

Mercury 1.8° south of Moon

1905: Gerard Kuiper born
1972: Apollo 17 launched
1995: Galileo probe enters Jupiter’s atmosphere; orbiter begins prime mission
1997: Galileo Europa Mission begins

Moon phase Wednesday 8

1964: Apollo A-002 launched
1990: Galileo makes first Earth flyby on way to Jupiter
1992: Galileo makes second Earth flyby on way to Jupiter
SpaceX Dragon 1 launched; first private spacecraft recovered from orbit

Moon phase Thursday 9

1978: Pioneer-Venus 2 probes enter atmosphere of Venus
2006: STS-116 Discovery launched

Moon phase Friday 10

Mercury appears stationary

1963: Dyna-Soar project canceled
1999: Newton X-Ray Multi-Mirror Telescope launched

Moon phase Saturday 11

Neptune 5° south of Moon

1863: Annie Jump Cannon born
1972: Apollo 17 lands on Moon
1993: Sotheby’s holds first auction of Soviet space hardware & artifacts

Moon phase Sunday 12

1961: OSCAR 1 launched, first amateur radio satellite
1970: Italian ground crew becomes first to launch satellite for America, Explorer 42

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