The World Today

The World Today
Earth in 2013

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Project Galileo

Project Galileo was launched by the United States in 1985 as a follow-up to the fly-by of Jupiter by the Pioneer Probes. The primary concern of the first Galileo mission was that of studying the planet Jupiter itself. A small probe, designed by the French Space Agency, hitched a ride on Galileo I and was ejected for a one-way trip through Jupiter’s atmosphere. As it happened, the probe hit one of the driest spots in the planet’s atmosphere, detecting only trace amounts of water vapor. Galileo did take pictures and readings from the Galilean moons as it passed. Even after Pioneer, which where not in the proper place for decent pictures, the moons were assumed to be uninteresting. Galileo I’s biggest shock was that of volcanic activity on Io, and what appeared to be a copy of the Arctic Ocean on Europa. Further Galileo missions were launched to study the moons in the 21st Century, first from Earth, then later from the surface of Luna.

Galileo I (1985): First orbiter of Jupiter. Launched atmospheric probe. Was later turned to focus on the moons as their attributes became widely known.

Galileo II (2001): Passed through the Jupiter-Io flux tube and had its communications disabled.

Galileo III (2008): Carried the Io lander, which successfully landed near a lava flow. Functioned for three hours.

Galileo IV (2008): Carried Europa lander, which crashed and was unable to send back data. Galileo IV entered orbit around Europa and further mapped the planet and its ocean.

Galileo V (2020): Launched from the surface of the moon. Delivered a submersible that was successfully landed on Europa and melted through the ice. Discovered evidence of biological activity, though no indisputable evidence of life.

Galileo VI (2034): Sample return mission for Io.

Galileo VII (2034): Ganymede lander; sample return rocket failed to ignite.

Galileo VIII (2054): The Europa Biochemical Laboratory successfully touched down on Europa and began a five year mission. A small rover collected samples from cracks and faults in the ice. Biological activity confirmed, yet again no samples of lifeforms discovered.

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