Galileo team to hold news briefing, mark milestones March 6

Lori Stiles
March 2, 2000

The Galileo Imaging Team will release new images of volcanoes on Io and hold a news briefing in Tucson on Monday, March 6. The scientists also will mark their last official team meeting, celebrate the successful finale of Galileo's Europa mission - and "pass the baton" of leadership in outer solar system research to Cassini mission scientists.


Michael Belton, Galileo Imaging Team leader, 520-325-9350,
Elizabeth Turtle, Galileo Imaging Team member, 520-621-8284,
Carolyn C. Porco, Cassini Imaging Team leader, 520-621-2390,


You are invited to an informal news briefing on new Galileo imaging results about volcanism on Io and the ice shell that covers the ocean on Jupiter's satellite Europa.

The briefing will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, March 6, at the Doubletree Hotel, 445 S. Alvernon Way, Tucson.

You also are invited to a 6 p.m. celebration at 430 S. Randolph Way, Michael Belton's residence. Belton leads the Galileo Imaging Team. This event will:

* mark the successful conclusion of the Galileo Europa Mission, as well as the 81st and final meeting of the Galileo Imaging Team. The team began its work in 1979. They will hold a short awards ceremony to reward superior performance by three team members.

* mark the beginning of the final phase of the Galileo Europa Mission that will culminate with a historic scientific rendezvous between NASA's Galileo and Cassini spacraft near Jupiter in December 2000.

* herald the 'changing of the guard' in outer space imaging science. Belton will ceremonially "pass the baton" of outer planet space research to UA planetary scientist Carolyn Porco, team leader for the Cassini Imaging Team. Cassini cameras have taken photos of Earth's moon and, more recently, of a main belt asteroid as the spacecraft flies toward Jupiter. Cassini will arrive at Saturn in 2004. Galileo has done remarkable science, Belton said, but it is aging. Cassini represents new spirit and technology in ongoing space exploration.


The Galileo imaging investigation began 21 years ago in the fall of 1979 when NASA formed the Galileo imaging science team.

International in scope, the team includes participation of German, Canadian, and United States scientists. From the beginning, Galileo has provided a multitude of discoveries including:

-- the first moon around an asteroid
--unique direct views of the impact of a comet into Jupiter's atmosphere
--evidence for an ocean under the ice-shell covering Europa
--the high temperture of active volcanism on Io
--the structure and origin of the ring system around Jupiter.

Massively reconfigured after the 1986 Challenger shuttle accident, the Galileo spacecraft was launched in 1989 and has since conducted successful scientific investigations at 15 places in the solar system: Venus, Earth, the moon, asteroids Gaspra and Ida, Jupiter, including the impacts of fragments of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, the Galilean satellites Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, Jupiter's ring system and its controlling moons Amalthea, Metis, Adrastea, and Thebe.

Galileo produced results at some 35 separate encounters. It overcame severe technical difficulties that included the loss of its main communications antenna and problems in the operation of its only tape recorder before reaching Jupiter,

The spacecraft sent a probe into Jupiter's atmosphere in 1995. It then flew a flawless primary 11-encounter orbital mission until 1997, essentially achieving all of its primary scientific objectives.

Galileo was then sent on an extended 2-year mission to Jupiter's moon, Europa. The spacecraft completed 15 more encounters, of which 12 were successful, concluding after the 26th orbit in the January, 2000, encounter with Europa.

The Galileo saga continued with a Feb. 22 encounter with Io. This final 2-year extension, called the Galileo Millennium Mission, could add another seven scientific encounters to the mission.

This will include the historic December 2000 scientific rendezvous between the now aging Galileo spacecraft and the new Cassini spacecraft.

The Galileo spacecraft represents the technology of the 1980s. Exposure to radiation in Jupiter's magnetosphere is taking its toll on the spacecraft.
But team scientists still plan to make some unique observations of the planet Jupiter, its magnetosphere, its rings, and its extremely volcanic satellite Io.

After this 81st and final Galileo Imaging Team meeting, team scientists will conduct their investigations in cyberspace by e-mail and on the Internet.
The project is to terminate in 2002.

The Galileo mission is managed for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C., by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, Calif.


Resources for the media