Galileo’s antenna problem

GalileoLaunched in 1989 via Space Shuttle, the unmanned Galileo probe reveals a significant technical problem during its first flyby of Earth: the umbrella-like high-gain antenna, allowing it to send its observations of Jupiter and its moons back to Earth at high speed, is stuck in a partly-open, partly-closed configuration that prevents its use. Ground engineers at JPL have to devise data compression schemes, and a tight record/playback schedule, that will allow Galileo to take all of its planned observations and send them back to Earth at a lower bit rate than planned. It is theorized that the long delays in Galileo’s launch – the probe was ready for launch in 1982 but had to wait through delays in the early shuttle program and was then kept in storage in the aftermath of the Challenger disaster – allowed the antenna’s lubricant to dry up. Galileo won’t reach its target planet, Jupiter, until 1995.

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