Galileo Makes Closest Pass to Jupiter’s Moon Europa (Great Events: 1900-2001)
Article abstract: After a six-year journey through interplanetary space, the unmanned spacecraft Galileo passed within 370 miles of Jupiter’s moon Europa, revealing an ice-enshrouded world whose surface characteristics suggest an underlying planetary ocean that may harbor extraterrestrial life.
Following the successes of the Apollo manned lunar lander missions (1969-1972), the Skylab orbital space station (1973-1979), and the manned space shuttle program (beginning 1981), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) turned its attention to robotic exploration of the solar system. Principal among the early unmanned probes to Jupiter were the Pioneer 10 and 11 missions of the early 1970’s and the twin Voyager spacecraft (1977-1989) that made close approaches to Jupiter and the outer planets Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune before finally heading outward to interstellar space. Named after the seventeenth century astronomer Galileo Galilei, discoverer of Jupiter’s four largest moons, the spacecraft Galileo was finally launched in October, 1989, after many months of delay caused by engineering setbacks and shifting administrative priorities following the space shuttle Challenger explosion (January, 1986).
After traveling more than 400 million miles, Galileo entered the orbit of Jupiter, largest of the nine known planets and fifth in distance from the sun, on December 7,...
(The entire section is 976 words.)
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