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Liked the famed astronomer for which it was named, Galileo spacecraft logged quite a few firsts during its 14-year mission to Jupiter. Among its discoveries: an intense radiation belt above Jupiter's cloud tops, helium in about the same concentration as the sun, extensive and rapid resurfacing of the moon Io because of volcanism, and evidence for liquid water oceans under the moon Europa's icy surface.

The orbiter carried a small probe that became the first to sample the atmosphere of a gas planet. The probe measured temperature, pressure, chemical composition, cloud characteristics, sunlight and energy internal to the planet, and lightning. During its 58-minute life, the probe penetrated 200 km (124 miles) into Jupiter's violent atmosphere before it was crushed, melted, and/or vaporized by the pressure and temperature of the atmosphere.

Galileo was deliberately crashed into Jupiter in September 2003 to avoid an accidental collision with - and possible contamination of - one of Jupiter's moons.

Read More About Galileo

Key Dates Headlines
Launch (16:53:40 UT)
Probe Descent (22:04 UT - 23:02 UT)
Jupiter Impact (18:57:18 UT)
Mission Complete
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Galileo Facts Galileo was launched from the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

The spacecraft traveled more than 4.6 billion km (about 2.8 billion miles) during its 14-year mission.

Galileo was named in honor of Galileo Galilei (above), who discovered the largest moons of Jupiter in 1610.
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Last Updated: 09 December 2003