Tuesday, September 23 2003 @ 03:34 AM CDT
Contributed by: dgrosvold
The Galileo spacecraft's 14-year odyssey came to an end on Sunday, Sept. 21, when the spacecraft passed into Jupiter's shadow then disintegrated in the planet's dense atmosphere at 11:57 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. The Deep Space Network tracking station in Goldstone, Calif., received the last signal at 12:43:14 PDT. The delay is due to the time it takes for the signal to travel to Earth.
Hundreds of former Galileo project members and their families were present at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., for a celebration to bid the spacecraft goodbye.
"We learned mind-boggling things. This mission was worth its weight in gold," said Dr. Claudia Alexander, Galileo project manager.
Having traveled approximately 4.6 billion kilometers (about 2.8 billion miles), the hardy spacecraft endured more than four times the cumulative dose of harmful jovian radiation it was designed to withstand. During a previous flyby of the moon Amalthea in November 2002, flashes of light were seen by the star scanner that indicated the presence of rocky debris circling Jupiter in the vicinity of the small moon. Another measurement of this area was taken today during Galileo's final pass. Further analysis may help confirm or constrain the existence of a ring at Amalthea's orbit.