Artist's depiction of the Galileo spacecraft near Jupiter's moon Io.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy NASA/JPL.

Galileo Reaches the End of its Road
News story originally written on September 19, 2003

Galileo is a spacecraft that has been orbiting Jupiter for eight years. On September 21, 2003, Galileo will crash into Jupiter. It will burn up in Jupiter's atmosphere. The crash is not an accident! The people who run the Galileo mission are making Galileo crash on purpose!

Why are they doing that? They want to make sure Galileo doesn't crash somewhere else. One of Jupiter's moons, Europa, might have life on it. There are probably microbes inside of Galileo somewhere. If Galileo crashed on Europa, the microbes might get out and start growing there. Scientists don't want that to happen!

The team of scientists and engineers who worked on the Galileo mission are sad to see it end. However, they are proud of all the great things Galileo has done. Here are some of the things Galileo has helped us learn:

Last modified September 19, 2003 by Randy Russell.

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more


Galileo was a spacecraft that orbited Jupiter for eight years. It made many discoveries about Jupiter and its moons. Galileo was launched in 1989, and reached Jupiter in 1995. The spacecraft had two parts....more


Europa was first discovered by Galileo in 1610, making it one of the Galilean Satellites. It is Jupiter's 4th largest moon, 670,900 km ( miles) from Jupiter. Europa's diameter is about half the distance...more

Interior of Europa

The diagram to the left shows the possible interior of Europa. The composition of the icy moons is mostly ice, therefore there is probably a small core of rocky material buried inside, covered with ice....more

Interior of Ganymede

The picture on this page shows what the inside of Ganymede looks like. Scientists have made this model based on measurements by the Galileo spacecraft. The picture shows a samll core of metal (silver),...more

The Atmosphere of Europa

The Galileo mission discovered an amazing thing! Europa has its own atmosphere, although it is very, very thin. When fast moving molecules traveling through space near Jupiter hit Europa's atmosphere,...more

Magnetosphere of Ganymede

Did you know that some of the planets and moons can be magnetic? Earth is! The Galileo spacecraft found out that a moon of Jupiter, Ganymede, is magnetic too! ...more

Galileo Finds More Volcanoes on Io

The Galileo spacecraft took pictures of some huge volcanoes on Jupiter's moon Io. Scientists say these volcanoes aren't like the ones we have on Earth. Some of the huge ones are active for years! Galileo...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA