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Galileo Spacecraft May Be Crashed

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  • Cliff Capers
    Galileo Spacecraft May Be Crashed http://www.infobeat.com/stories/cgi/story.cgi?id=2564683733-46c TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) _ A NASA spacecraft exploring Jupiter and
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 2, 2000
      Galileo Spacecraft May Be Crashed
      http://www.infobeat.com/stories/cgi/story.cgi?id=2564683733-46c

      TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) _ A NASA spacecraft exploring Jupiter and its moons
      may be deliberately crashed to avoid any chance that it could strike and
      contaminate the moon Europa, where scientists believe simple life forms
      may exist.

      Galileo, launched in 1989, has traveled 500 million miles to study the
      giant planet.

      A member of the Galileo imaging team says NASA are considering crashing
      the spacecraft into Jupiter or one of its icy moons in 2002 because it
      might still contain microbes from Earth.

      ``It was never put into quarantine or cleaned up before it left the
      Earth, though I can't imagine any bugs would be alive on it after all
      the radiation it's been exposed to,'' Kitt Peak astronomer Michael
      Belton said Wednesday.

      ``Just to be sure, they want to get rid of it and make sure it doesn't
      go into Europa, where we have a possible habitat of some kind of
      extraterrestrial life.''

      Scientists suspect that Europa has an ocean beneath its ice shell that
      might contain simple life forms.

      Galileo Project Manager Jim Erickson confirmed that the space agency is
      considering plunging the spacecraft into Jupiter, the moon Io or an icy
      satellite other than Europa.

      Another option would be to aim the craft away from the planet and its
      moons ``so the odds are it will never hit anything,'' he said.

      ``We're looking at all kinds of options,'' said Erickson, who works at
      the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

      The $1.5 billion Galileo probe was launched in 1989 from the space
      shuttle Atlantis. It entered orbit around Jupiter in December 1995, and
      its two-year main mission was followed by a two-year extension that
      focused on Europa.

      The Europa extension ended in January, and the battered probe has
      embarked on a new one, called the Galileo Millennium Mission. The craft
      completed its closest flyby of Io last month, passing 124 miles above
      the fiery moon. Galileo has begun relaying volcano pictures and other
      data from that encounter.

      The Millennium Mission is expected to last until at least February 2001.
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