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Galileo mission extended one last time; mission end set for August 2003
Posted: Thu, Mar 15, 2001, 9:34 PM ET (0234 GMT)
Galileo at Jupiter illustration NASA granted the Galileo spacecraft a third and final mission extension Thursday, continuing the mission for nearly two and a half more years. The extended mission plan starts with a close flyby of the moon Callisto on May 25, followed by flybys of the moon Io's polar regions in August and October. A third flyby of Io, this time over its equator, is planned for January 2002. Galileo's last flyby of a Jovian moon is scheduled for November 2002 when it makes its only close approach to the tiny inner moon Amalthea, using its instruments to accurately measure the moon's mass as well as study the dust and charged particle environment of the planet's thin rings. While magnetic field and other studies are planned throughout this time, imaging is planned for only the flybys scheduled for this year. Galileo's mission will end in August 2003 when the spacecraft plunges into Jupiter's atmosphere and is destroyed, a move recommended last year by a National Academy of Sciences report to avoid the small probability that the spacecraft could collide with Europa or another moon and contaminate it with terrestrial bacteria. The mission extension is the third for Galileo, which entered orbit around Jupiter in December 1995 for what originally was only a two year mission. The mission was extended for two years in late 1997 and again for one year last year.
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