It is December 7, 3:09 p.m. in California. “They continue to look worried,” says a NASA spokesperson. The tension is palpable. “They” are the flight control specialists at JPL, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the outskirts of Los Angeles. For hours they have had their gigantic antennas trained on Jupiter, waiting in vain for a signal. Nearly a billion kilometers separate Earth from Jupiter, but the signal should have come long ago. Being anxiously awaited was a single bit of information that would announce the beginning of an extraordinary mission. At this moment, Jupiter is about to receive Galileo, a visitor from Earth. It is the most expensive and most complicated interplanetary probe ever to have been sent to the outer solar system, and though not the only spacecraft to have traveled this distance, it certainly is the first designed to spend years exploring the giant planet.
KeywordsSolar System Asteroid Belt Outer Solar System Pioneer Probe Grand Tour
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