This Week on Galileo
October 14-20, 2002
The Calm Before the Storm
This week is delightfully uneventful for the Galileo spacecraft, if not for
the flight team. On Monday, October 14, and again on Saturday, October 19,
a conditioning exercise for the on-board tape recorder is performed. This
activity is designed to see us safely through our final encounter despite
the sticking problems that were first seen just prior to arrival at Jupiter
seven years ago, and have recurred within the past year.
On Tuesday, October 15, the spacecraft passes a point in space 150 Jupiter
radii (10.7 million kilometers or 6.7 million miles) out from the giant
planet, on its penultimate trek in towards a close encounter. On November
5, it will skim only 143,000 kilometers (89,000 miles) over the Jovian
cloud tops, less than two-fifths of the distance from Earth to our own
Moon, and closer by half than it has ever been from Jupiter.
Friday, October 18, marks another milestone for Galileo. On this date 13
years ago, the space shuttle Atlantis lifted off from Kennedy Space Center
with the Galileo spacecraft in the cargo bay, and our historic journey of
discovery began. It seems like only yesterday, and yet, it also seems like
there wasn't a time when Galileo wasn't flying. Thirteen years and thirty
nine encounters later (with Venus, Earth, two asteroids, and the Galilean
moons), we're still plugging along. Not bad for a spacecraft that was
designed and built before the first IBM PC hit the market!
On Sunday, October 20, the Extreme Ultraviolet Spectrometer is powered down
for the final time in the mission. It has been collecting data on the
interplanetary medium nearly continuously since late January, shortly after
our last flyby of the volcanic satellite Io. The instrument does not
operate well in the intense radiation environment close to Jupiter and is
normally turned off during encounters. It also shares data processing
resources on board the spacecraft with the Heavy Ion Counter, which is one
of the suite of Fields and Particles instruments that are used to study the
Ongoing activities for the spacecraft include continued data collection by
the Dust Detector and the Magnetometer instruments.
The pace of activities here on Earth is fast and furious, though, as the
flight team puts the finishing touches on the Amalthea encounter activities
plan and develops contingency plans and emergency responses for as many
problems as we can reasonably anticipate.