NASA's Galileo spacecraft, now in orbit around the planet Jupiter, this morning began the first scheduled return of data from its companion atmospheric probe that parachuted into the jovian atmosphere last Thursday.
Receipt of probe data from the spacecraft began at 4:15 a.m. PST and is scheduled to continue throughout the day.
This afternoon at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena CA, Galileo scientists will check this first batch of data to assess the quality of the information collected by the probe, said Galileo Project Scientist Dr. Torrence Johnson.
The probe data is the first-ever direct measurement of the giant planet's atmosphere and should reveal details of Jupiter's composition, climate and circulation. Forty minutes of data collected by the probe stored in the orbiter's onboard computer memory will be radioed to Earth over the next four days and presented to Galileo scientists for analysis. In early February, the full collection of probe data stored on Galileo's tape recorder, up to 75 minutes' worth, will be played back to receivers on Earth.
Preliminary analysis of the probe data will be presented at a press briefing December 19 at NASA's Ames Research Center, Mountain View, CA.
The Galileo orbiter's mission, meanwhile, is to conduct two years of detailed studies of Jupiter, its moons and the planet's magnetic environment. The project is managed by JPL.
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