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Galileo, Cassini to study Jupiter in joint expedition

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Artists' concepts of the Cassini (top) and Galileo spacecraft  

In this story:

Focusing on powerful magnetic fields

After mission, Galileo fate a mystery

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



March 9, 2000
Web posted at: 5:54 p.m. EST (2254 GMT)

PASADENA, California -- The spacecraft Galileo will extend its mission exploring Jupiter and its moons until the end of the year, which may allow it to conduct scientific studies with the Cassini robot ship when it briefly visits the jovian system, NASA scientists announced this week.

The joint expedition would mark the first time two spacecraft have performed close-up studies of an outer planet at the same time.

"This extended travel ticket enables us to continue studying Jupiter and its fascinating moons," Jim Erickson, Galileo project manager, said in a statement.

Focusing on powerful magnetic fields

Mission engineers plan for Galileo to team up with Cassini to make synchronized observations of the Jupiter system and its magnetic fields from two different locations.

  MESSAGE BOARD
 

"One spacecraft will be inside Jupiter's magnetic envelope, with the other outside where it can observe the powerful solar wind pressing on the envelope," Cassini project scientist Dennis Matson said in a statement.

"From the two vantage points, we'll watch cause and effect as the wind changes the magnetic properties around Jupiter," Matson said.

The Saturn-bound Cassini will fly near Jupiter in December. Cassini engineers plan to use Jupiter's strong gravity to slingshot it toward Saturn.

Before the rendezvous, Galileo will fly by Jupiter's moon Ganymede in May and December. The flybys should provide clues about the geological history of Ganymede and the best images yet of the icy moon, the largest natural satellite in the solar system.

After mission, Galileo fate a mystery

Galileo, which earlier this year flew by two other Jupiter moons, Europa and Io, has endured the hazards of space much longer than expected.

The spacecraft concluded its original two-year mission in 1997. A two-year extension ended about six weeks ago. It has already survived nearly three times the radiation it was designed to withstand.

Galileo engineers are considering various options for a mission finale, including crashing the spacecraft into Jupiter or Io. They want to avoid an impact with Europa because recent evidence suggests the existence of a ocean underneath its icy crust, a liquid environment that some speculate could harbor life.

Galileo entered orbit around Jupiter in 1995, six years after it launched. Cassini blasted off in 1997 and will reach the Saturn system in 2004. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the Galileo and Cassini missions for NASA.




RELATED STORIES:
Space - Galileo images offer color-coded clues about Io
March 6, 2000
Roaming Galileo returns to heart of Jupiter system
February 1, 2000
Galileo returns closeups of volcanic Io
August 27, 1999
Scientist: Jupiter radiation could mean life on Europa
January 28, 2000
Nuclear-powered craft zooms safely past Earth
August 18, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Galileo Mission Home
Galileo Images and Animations
NASA Homepage

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