Unraveling the Mysteries of Space Series- Galileo

October 18, 1989.

I patiently await my launch on the 39B onboard the Atlantis space shuttle at the Kennedy Space Centre, California. Standing 17 feet tall and weighing two and a half tons, I shall be the first spacecraft to orbit and explore Jupiter and its moons. Humans believe Jupiter holds the key to the answers regarding the early universe. One of their many theories is that Jupiter formed from a part of the Sun and thus, should contain the same elements. I am built for, among various other reasons, to answer this question.

There isn’t enough fuel for me to reach Jupiter directly, which is why I shall be using gravity assists to fly by Venus and Earth to achieve the required energy to enter Jupiter’s orbit.

I am blown by the physics and mathematics of it all. The key idea is to steal some of the planet’s orbital energy to gain adequate speed required to reach my destination.

I am also carrying with me a small probe that will directly enter Jupiter’s atmosphere and descend until the friction of the Jovian air eventually burns it up. On its short life there, it will allow the humans to peek into the gaseous atmosphere and its elements to determine what it is made of.

T minus 16 seconds and the Sound Suppression System begins to squirt water onto the Mobile Launch Platform upon which I am loaded. This water absorbs the acoustic waves to prevent any damage to me during the final liftoff. Yet another precaution to ensure everything proceeds smoothly.

T minus 6 seconds and the engines fire up, releasing thick fumes all around me.

The engines burn fiercely until the thrust exceeds the downward pull of gravity, and I glide upwards, leaving dense clouds of fumes in my wake.

NASA/JPL. Launch of Galileo on STS-34 Atlantis. 10 Sept. 1997. nasa.gov. Web. 06 Aug. 2017.

In a couple of minutes, the rocket boosters hurl downwards, their parachutes guiding them towards the ocean, where special ships await their arrival.

The external tank that had been burning liquid hydrogen and oxygen to fuel the main engines is then cast off to relieve me of the extra weight. It is jettisoned to burn up in space once I reach the low earth orbit. With the space shuttle back on its way to Earth to be reused for future missions, I begin my journey into the interplanetary medium with the 24 pounds of plutonium dioxide and millions of computer chips to keep me company.

NASA/JPL. Galileo Spacecraft. nd. aerospaceguide.com. Web. 06 Aug. 2017.

Even with the gradual decay of plutonium to provide me with the required electricity, I need to fly by a few planets to equip myself with enough energy to reach the gas giant. With the direction being opposite to that of the Sun, going against its gravitational field is a horrendous task.

I fly by Venus and Earth to transfer some of their momenta to increase my speed to counter the Sun’s force. While my little trick decreases a fraction of momentum of the massive planets, I leave them behind and pave my way towards Jupiter.

18 months after launch and disaster strikes. My primary antenna refuses to open under any circumstances, leaving me no other option but to use my second low gain antenna, resulting in extremely slow transmission of data back to Earth.

I make my way cautiously through the asteroid belt, careful not to bump into the floating debris. I capture and send back images of various satellites, few of them of Ida and its moon, Dactyl. I realized debris can have moons too. Well, it takes all kinds.

While I chew upon this thought, a comet hurdles towards Jupiter, its tremendous gravity tearing the comet to pieces. It bombards onto the surface of Jupiter, ejecting out dark clouds of smoke on the Southern hemisphere. The impact sends immense shockwaves upwards that moves at great speeds. It dawns upon me the speeds are far greater than should have been if the Jupiter consists of the same elements as the Sun. Leaving the guessing and theorizing part to the researchers back on earth, I continue my journey towards Jupiter, reaching it precisely one year after the comet crash. Remains of the comet are mourned on Jupiter, its surface marred by the dense spots left behind. I’ve answered one of the questions and given rise to even more.

One of my purposes up here is to examine 4 of the 63 moons of Jupiter and look for the signs of life if any. I release my probe into the Jovian atmosphere and then use my engines to set a new path around Jupiter, careful not to expose myself to its deadly radiation.

The probe uses the air resistance of the atmosphere to slow itself down, all the while spinning its 57-minute life to detect the elements in the atmosphere. Protected by black and gold insulation against the unexpected micrometeorites, it performs various experiments to detect the presence of argon and xenon before surrendering to the crushing force of Jupiter, allowing the scientists to delve deeper into Jupiter’s mystery.

I examine Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, its ever-changing surfaces under Jupiter’s gravity hinting presence of water beneath its icy surface. This data will soon result in future expeditions to Europa to understand its behavior better.

NASA/JPL. Flyby of Galileo. nd. nasa.gov. Web. 06 Aug. 2017.

I move on to Io, which is the closest to Jupiter. Constantly torn between friction generated in its interior and Jupiter’s gravity, the tidal heat produces hundreds of volcanoes, making it the most active moon in the entire solar system. Beneath its scarred surface lies a molten iron core.

NASA/JPL. Io. 2013. nasa.gov. Web. 06 Aug. 2017.

I rotate around Jupiter in a polar orbit several times, observing its swirling gases and My discovery of the possibility of life on Europa sparks hope into the minds of the greatest scientists back home and a step forward in science.

September 21, 2003. 

And because I have to protect my own discovery, I crash onto the surface of Jupiter, giving a chance to the budding life on Europa to flourish.


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