The Galileo Orbiter was a pivotal part of NASA’s Galileo mission, designed to study Jupiter and its moons. Launched in 1989, it reached Jupiter in 1995 and spent eight years orbiting and studying the giant planet.
Equipped with a suite of scientific instruments, the Galileo Orbiter provided unprecedented insights into Jupiter’s atmosphere, magnetosphere, and unique moon system. It made critical discoveries, including identifying the possible presence of a subsurface ocean on Europa, Ganymede’s magnetic field, and the volcanic activity on Io.
One of its most significant contributions was capturing the iconic images of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacts on Jupiter in 1994, providing crucial data on the planet’s composition.
After years of successful exploration, the Galileo Orbiter was intentionally crashed into Jupiter in 2003 to avoid contaminating any of Jupiter’s potentially habitable moons with Earth-based microorganisms.