On 21 september 2003, the NASA Galileo spacecraft ended its 8 year mission to Jupiter.
With fuel running low and the intense radiation taking its toll, the spacecraft was slowly breaking down.
First Galileo's cameras were deactivated in 2002. The other recording devices kept active. Before it's final descent into Jupiter, Galileo performed one last experiment: measuring the mass of Amalthea, one of Jupiter's moons.
Prior to launch, the Galileo had not been sterilised. Because it could have carried bacteria from Earth it was important to avoid contamination. So the best possible ending was to deorbit the craft and crash it into Jupiter.
The impact speed was an estimated 173,700 km/h (or 108,000 mph).
The craft was launched on 18 October 1989 by the Space Shuttle Atlantis, the STS-34 mission.
Galileo arrived 6 years later at Jupiter. Its mission was to study Jupiter and its moons.
The craft set a couple of firsts:
- First Jupiter orbit
- First asteroid flyby by a human spacecraft, 951 Gaspra
- Discovery of the first asteroid moon, Dactyl, around 243 Ida
- First observation of two major Solar bodies colliding (temperature measurements of Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 collision with Jupiter)
Impact of the Comet on Jupiter as seen by the Hubble Space telescope.
Read more about the Galileo mission on Wikipedia.