Illustration of Galileo at Jupiter

NASA's Galileo spacecraft last week completed a four-day maneuver sequence to begin shaping its course for a December gravity assist from the Earth to help it reach the planet Jupiter in late 1995.

Operating from computer programs written by the Galileo flight team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and transmitted by the Deep Space Network in four daily segments, the spacecraft pulsed its tiny lateral thrusters almost 1600 times. The effect was to slow Galileo in its course by about 55 miles per hour.

This was the first of several maneuvers planned this year to shape the flight path for a flyby of Earth on December 8, 1990. Together with another Earth flyby in December 1992, this will give Galileo the precise energy needed to reach Jupiter in 1995, to carry out its two-year scientific observation of that planet and its satellites and to probe its atmosphere directly.

The maneuver was carried out well within design expectations, according to Galileo Project Manager William J. O'Neil. The next days and weeks of tracking will confirm details of the new flight path. The health of the Galileo spacecraft remains excellent. Galileo was launched by the space shuttle Atlantis on October l8, l989, and flew past Venus last February 9.

The Galileo Project is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Office of Space Science and Applications.

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