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Galileo closes in on Jupiter.

The Galileo spacecraft passed a critical milestone late last month in the final leg of its 6-year voyage to the solar system's biggest planet. On July 27, Galileo fired its main engine, setting course for a 2-year grand tour of Jupiter and its moons.

The engine firing came 2 weeks after the craft released a probe that will parachute into Jupiter's atmosphere on December 7 (SN: 7/22/95, p.54). On the same day, Galileo will begin its Jovian tour, flying past the volcanically active moon Io.

The mission now faces other hurdles. Plagued by a main communications antenna that never unfurled, Galileo must store data on tape instead of relaying it directly to Earth. Because the craft's secondary antenna transmits information more slowly, not all recorded observations will be transmitted. The craft will also make fewer observations than planned.

NASA scientists have already coped with these problems in retrieving data taken by Galileo en route to Jupiter. But the craft will lie considerably farther from Earth during its Jovian tour, making transmission more difficult. With the help of data compression, the space agency says, Galileo should accomplish 70 percent of its original mission.
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Title Annotation:Galileo spacecraft fired its main engine on July 27, 1995, in preparation for a 2-year tour of Jupiter
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Aug 5, 1995
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