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The Journey to Jupiter
Getting Off the Ground

The Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off.
The Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off.

Nearly four centuries ago, Galileo Galilei launched the age of modern astronomy by studying the planets and stars with a new invention - the telescope. That tool connected us to the heavens as scientific observers. Humans dreamed of traveling to the planets for a closer look, but only in the 50 years has that idea become reality.

Pioneer 10 and 11 and Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft scouted Jupiter in the 1970s, but they couldn't stay and that limited what they could tell scientists back on Earth. Scientists proposed sending an orbiting spacecraft that could stick around and study Jupiter's environment in detail. The orbiter also would carry a probe to drop through Jupiter's clouds and collect data. The mission was named Galileo.

Galileo is deployed from the shuttle's cargo bay.
Galileo is deployed from the shuttle's cargo bay.

In October 1989, Galileo was launched from the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Astronaut Shannon Lucid performed the delicate maneuvers that started the spacecraft on its journey. The booster rocket that pushed Galileo into interplanetary space was not powerful enough to send the orbiter directly to Jupiter. But engineers devised a way to borrow enough energy to get the spacecraft to its destination.

Cruise Timeline:

  • Launch Date: 10/18/89
  • Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Atlantis
  • Mission: NASA STS-34
  • Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center, Pad 39-B
  • Booster for Galileo: Inertial Upper Stage
  • Shuttle Crew:
      - Donald E. Williams, Commander
      - Michael J. McCulley, Pilot
      - Franklin R. Chang-Diaz, Mission Specialist 1
      - Shannon W. Lucid, Mission Specialist 2
      - Ellen S. Baker, Mission Specialist 3

Next: The Cruise - The Winding Road to Jupiter Next

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Last Updated: 9 Jul 2010