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Rediff News  All News  » News » Galileo's 14-year odyssey comes to an end

Galileo's 14-year odyssey comes to an end

September 22, 2003 16:16 IST

Galileo's 14-year odyssey came to an end on September 21 when the spacecraft disintegrated in Jupiter's dense atmosphere at 11:57 am Pacific Daylight Time, the NASA web site said.

The Deep Space Network tracking station in Goldstone, California, 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 those associated with the project and their families were present at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, to bid the spacecraft goodbye at the end of its approximately 4.6 billion kilometres (460 crore km) journey.

"This mission was worth its weight in gold," said Galileo project manager Dr Claudia Alexander.

"We haven't lost a spacecraft, we've gained a steppingstone into the future of space exploration," said Dr Torrance Johnson, Galileo project scientist.

The spacecraft was purposely put on a collision course with Jupiter because the onboard propellant was nearly depleted and scientists wanted to eliminate any chance of an unwanted impact between the spacecraft and Jupiter's moon Europa, which Galileo discovered is likely to have a subsurface ocean. Without propellant, the spacecraft would not be able to point its antenna toward Earth or adjust its trajectory, making it difficult to control the spacecraft.

The possibility of life existing on Europa is so compelling and has raised so many unanswered questions that future missions to the icy moon are being planned.