A toy version of NASA's Galileo spacecraft currently in orbit around Jupiter will be produced under a licensing agreement between the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Mattel Inc.
Mattel plans an early 1999 debut for the new Hot Wheels Jupiter/Europa Encounter Action Pack, a highly detailed reproduction of the Galileo spacecraft. Also included in the set are reproductions of the Galileo descent probe that entered Jupiter's atmosphere in 1995 and of one of the giant ground-based antenna dishes now used to communicate with the spacecraft.
During its current extended mission, Galileo is in orbit around Jupiter, making repeated flybys of its four largest moons, including Europa, which currently is the subject of intense scientific interest because of the prospect that liquid water oceans might lie beneath its icy crust.
The toy marks the second time Mattel has partnered with JPL for a Hot Wheels toy. Under a previous licensing agreement, Mattel produced a Hot Wheels JPL Sojourner Mars Rover Action Pack Set based on the Mars Pathfinder mission that landed in 1997.
Both toys came into being thanks to JPL's Technology Affiliates program. Through the program, corporations form alliances with JPL either to license intellectual property, as is the case with Mattel, or to gain access to JPL's engineers and scientists to help solve a range of technological problems. To date, more than 120 companies, large and small, have utilized the program to solve upwards of 200 specific technology challenges.
"The Mars rover Hot Wheels toy helped educate kids and parents alike about the Mars Pathfinder mission in the most user- friendly fashion imaginable," explained Joan Horvath, a business alliance manager with JPL's Technology Affiliates Program. "Along the way, it also helped alert the business community to the many facets of JPL's technology transfer programs."
The Technology Affiliates program provides a streamlined way for JPL, one of 10 NASA centers around the country, to do business with the private sector. The payoff: Technologies developed for the space program prove beneficial back on Earth and -- in the case of the Mattel toys -- help educate and enthuse the public about the space program.
"Through this long-term partnership with JPL, we continue to demonstrate a commitment to making science and space exploration more fun and accessible to children nationwide," said Jim Wagner, Mattel's senior vice president of Hot Wheels marketing and licensing.
NASA's Galileo spacecraft was launched in 1989 and entered orbit around Jupiter on December 7, 1995. During its two-year primary mission, Galileo studied Jupiter and its four largest moons. Mission scientists say images and other information gathered by Galileo's science instruments have dramatically altered our knowledge of Jupiter and its moons.
The spacecraft is now in the midst of a two-year extension, known as the Galileo Europa Mission, with special emphasis on studying Jupiter's moon, Europa. The presence of liquid water on Europa would increase the odds that this icy moon may have the conditions necessary to harbor life.
The antenna dish depicted in the Hot Wheels Jupiter/Europa Encounter Action Pack is part of the Deep Space Network, a worldwide network of ground stations used to communicate with spacecraft and conduct radar and radio astronomy studies. With three sites located in Spain, Australia and California's Mojave Desert, the Deep Space Network can maintain 24-hour contact with spacecraft as the Earth rotates.
JPL manages the Galileo mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. More information on the Galileo mission is available on the Internet at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/galileo/ .
JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology, which serves as the party of record on all patents developed at JPL and works closely with JPL on Technology Affiliates agreements. For further information about JPL's Technology Affiliates program, visit its web site at http://techtrans.jpl.nasa.gov/tu.html .