- The Washington Times - Monday, September 22, 2003

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — NASA’s aging Galileo spacecraft concluded a 14-year, $1.5 billion exploration of Jupiter and its moons yesterday with a streaking suicide plunge into the planet’s turbulent atmosphere.

The spacecraft passed into the shadow of the solar system’s largest planet and several minutes later entered its atmosphere at 2:57 p.m. EDT. The unmanned spacecraft, traveling at nearly 108,000 mph, was torn apart and vaporized by the heat and friction of its fall through the clouds.

The last word from the spacecraft, including some final scientific measurements, was to arrive on Earth 52 minutes later, after crossing about 500 million miles of space.

Hundreds of scientists, engineers and their families at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory counted down the last seconds before the spacecraft plunged into the atmosphere.

“We haven’t lost a spacecraft; we’ve gained a new stepping stone in exploration,” said Torrence Johnson, the mission’s project scientist.

Despite the glitches that had plagued Galileo since its 1989 launch aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis, it was one of NASA’s most fruitful missions.

During its thrice-extended mission, Galileo discovered the first moon of an asteroid and witnessed the impact of a comet into Jupiter.

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