Exploring the Solar System

Exploring the Outer Planets

What was Galileo’s flight path to Jupiter?

Galileo needed three major gravitational slingshots to gather enough speed to make it to Jupiter. The VEEGA (Venus-Earth-Earth Gravity Assist) maneuver caused Galileo to fly by Venus on February 10, 1990; Earth on December 8, 1990; and Earth again on December 8, 1992. The extra flight time and distance proved to be scientifically fortuitous. Galileo was able to pass close by and thus study two asteroids: Gaspra (on October 29, 1991) and Ida (August 28, 1993). On the latter pass, it found the first-ever moon around an asteroid: the smaller asteroid Dactyl, orbiting Ida. Then in 1994 about a year away from its destination, Galileo’s cameras were well positioned to observe the collision of the fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 into Jupiter.


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