NASA has started testing sensors aboard Galileo, five days after the spacecraft successfully fired its thrusters for a second course correction on its journey to Venus and Jupiter.
"We're testing all of the scientific instruments to ensure they are ready to observe Venus" when Galileo whizzes past the cloud-shrouded planet Feb. 9, said Jim Wilson, spokesman for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.On Friday, Galileo fired its thrusters during a 21/2-hour period so that it will fly about 6,200 miles above the Venusian cloudtops, Wilson said.
"The maneuver went off exactly as planned," Galileo mission director Neal Ausman said.
Wilson said another maneuver may be needed in late January to fine-tune the spacecraft's trajectory. The first trajectory maneuver was performed in November.
Galileo was launched from the space shuttle Atlantis on Oct. 18. It will swoop by Venus once and Earth twice so those planets can act as "gravity slingshots" to propel Galileo toward its 1995 encounter with Jupiter, the solar system's largest planet.
On Wednesday, the spacecraft was 12 1/2 million miles from Earth but had traveled almost 105 million miles along its looping 185 million-mile path to Venus, Wilson said.
After flying past Earth in December 1990 and December 1992, Galileo will separate into an orbiter and a probe in July 1995.
The orbiter will circle the giant gas planet for 22 months starting in December 1995, the same month the probe will parachute into the Jovian atmosphere, collecting information for 75 minutes until it is crushed by overwhelming pressure from the atmosphere.