A long journey of 14 years that culminated inside a gaseous hell

The travel of the Galileo spacecraft inside Jupiter and what it found before disappearing

One of the most fascinating space trips was started on October 18, 1989 by NASA with the launch of the Galileo space probe.

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During its journey to Jupiter, the Galileo probe reached some milestones, being the first spacecraft to visit an asteroid (Gaspra, on October 9, 1991, and later Ida, on March 28, 1993 ). It was also the first spacecraft to observe the impact of a comet against a planet, specifically Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 against Jupiter between July 16 and 22, 1994. Its journey to the The largest planet in the Solar System lasted almost 14 years, specifically 13 years, 11 months and 3 days, traveling a distance of 4,631,778,000 kilometers.

The launch of the Galileo probe with the space shuttle Atlantis on its STS-34 mission (Photo: NASA).

Upon reaching Jupiter's orbit, on July 13, 1995, the spacecraft separated into two parts: the orbiter and the space probe. The orbiter continued making observations until September 21, 2003, when NASA decided to crash it against Jupiter to prevent it from falling and contaminating any of its satellites. The probe descended into the interior of Jupiter on December 7, 1995, beginning an unprecedented journey in the history of the space race due to the extreme conditions it had to endure.

Artist's impression of the Galileo space probe (Source: NASA / Madrid Deep Space Communications Complex).

The Galileo probe entered Jupiter's atmosphere at a speed of 250,000 km/h. Its thermal shield reached a temperature of 15,500 ºC. It was such a brutal effort that the shield, made of phenolic carbon, lost more than half of its mass during the descent (it initially weighed 150 kg and when you detached only 72 kg remained). After crossing the atmosphere, the probe deployed a parachute to slow its descent, reducing its speed to 430 km/h. Finally, the extremely high temperature inside Jupiter, around 1,700 °C, and a pressure of 5,000 atmospheres ended up volatilizing the probe.

During his descent, Galileo was able to analyze the composition of Jupiter's atmosphere, discovering abundances of argon, krypton, and xenon, which has led scientists to conclude that Jupiter could be farther away from the Sun what it currently is, since to trap these gases the planet would have to have been much colder than it is now.

About this fascinating journey, V101 Space has released today an excellent video recreating the descent of the Galileo probe into Jupiter:

You can see here some captures of the video. Here we see the probe with its shield terminated as it entered the Jovian atmosphere.

The descent of the Galileo probe with its parachute, which drastically reduced its entry speed.

The probe in the gaseous interior of Jupiter , before volatilizing due to the high temperatures and the very high pressure.

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