Galileo heads back to Jupiter
Posted: September 9, 2002

The Galileo spacecraft is still healthy and active as it continues its long trek back in towards Jupiter for its final planned science pass in November. Galileo is now back within ranges that it has traversed before, reaching 250 Jupiter radii from the planet (17.9 million kilometers, 11.1 million miles) on Saturday, September 14, and 200 Jupiter radii (14.3 million kilometers, 8.9 million miles) on Wednesday, October 2. The spacecraft is still well outside the magnetosphere of Jupiter on the sunward side of the planet, and data collection by the Magnetometer, the Dust Detector, and the Extreme Ultraviolet Spectrometer instruments continues to provide scientists with information about the interplanetary medium.

Routine maintenance activities for the spacecraft in the coming weeks include exercise of the propulsion system on Tuesday, September 10, and Thursday, October 3, and a standard test of the on-board gyroscopes on Friday, October 4.

On Saturday, September 21, Galileo executes a propulsive maneuver to alter its trajectory for the Amalthea flyby on November 5. This maneuver will establish the flyby altitude of 134 kilometers (83 miles) over the surface of the irregularly-shaped moon, whose longest dimension is about 135 kilometers.

A series of weekly conditioning exercises for the on-board tape recorder continues, with the latest activity starting on Monday, September 9. With this test, we drive the recorder at high speed across the full length of the tape ten times. At the end of the high-speed motion, we perform a short series of small, slow-speed cool-down motions that will lessen the possibility of the tape sticking to the heads. Following this, the tape is put into a series of low-speed, full-track motions that will occupy the remainder of the week.

Next on the recorder's agenda is to play back some data acquired during two previous Io flybys, one in October 2001, and the most recent in January 2002. These data will fill in gaps in a Near Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (NIMS) October observation and provide enhanced visibility into spacecraft attitude during a January NIMS observation.

With scarcely two months to go before the next encounter, the flight team is busy refining strategies, identifying contingency actions, and polishing the detailed sequence of activities to be followed by the spacecraft.

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