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Douglas Isbell

Headquarters, Washington, DC November 4, 1996
(Phone: 202/358-1753)

Franklin O'Donnell
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA
(Phone: 818/354-5011)

RELEASE: 96-226


For the first time, NASA's Galileo spacecraft flew
close to Jupiter's moon Callisto this morning (Nov. 4),
passing within 686 miles of the stark, crater-studded natural
satellite at 8:34 a.m. EST.

The flyby was by far the closest any spacecraft has
ever come to Callisto, the outermost of the four big moons
orbiting Jupiter that were first discovered by the
spacecraft's namesake, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei.
Signals confirming the event were received on Earth 46
minutes later.

Data from this Callisto flyby and another one next
June should help resolve questions about why this seemingly
inactive, pockmarked moon is so different from its vastly
more active siblings -- tectonic Ganymede, volcanic Io and
Europa, which may have an ocean beneath its cracked, icy

Callisto is the outermost and, apparently, least
active of Jupiter's four major Galilean satellites. The
2,400-mile-diameter moon is the second largest of Jupiter's
16 known moons. Its aged appearance is its most distinctive
known feature. It has the oldest, most cratered face of any
body yet observed in the solar system.

"With data from this encounter, we'll know more about
why Callisto is so different from Jupiter's more lively
moons," said Galileo Project Scientist Dr. Torrence V.
Johnson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena,
"Some of the most interesting aspects of the Callisto
flyby are actually the observations we're making of other
bodies, such as Jupiter and Europa. We're coming to within
about 21,100 miles of Europa and about 409,000 miles of
Jupiter. Looking at their dark sides, we should get some
very good data from atmospheric measurements and auroral
searches," he said.

Science instruments on the spacecraft were pre-
programmed to take measurements of Callisto's surface to
determine its composition and history, to look for evidence
of any activity such as tectonism, and to search for hints of
any magnetic field that may be generated by the moon. While
some of the data are sent back to Earth immediately, much of
it, including all the images, are being recorded on the
spacecraft tape recorder for playback to Earth over the next
few weeks.

Like Jupiter's biggest moon, Ganymede, Callisto seems
to have a rocky core surrounded by ice. Unlike the other
large moons of Jupiter, however, the surface of Callisto is
completely covered with scars left by tens of thousands of
meteoric impacts. Although the exact rate of impact crater
formation is not known, scientists estimate that it would
require several billion years to accumulate the number of
craters found there, so Callisto is believed to have been
inactive at least that long.

The Callisto flyby marks the start of a new
telecommunications capability created to maximize the amount
of data that can be received from Galileo. The giant
antennas that listen to NASA's exploratory robots in deep
space have been augmented this week with the inauguration of
a new link between the agency's Deep Space Network
telecommunications stations in California and Australia and
Australia's Parkes radio astronomy antenna.

NASA's intercontinental link-up -- or "arraying" --
of giant antennas was developed to retrieve the maximum
amount of data possible from NASA's Galileo spacecraft, whose
planned high-speed, high-power telecommunications voice was
reduced to a whisper when its main antenna failed to open
four years ago.

For several hours a day, large collecting areas on
these big antennas are being devoted to receiving the
spacecraft's faint transmissions concurrently as Galileo
nears Callisto and returns data from its flyby. The Callisto
encounter occurred with the spacecraft at one of its most
distant points from the Earth, which makes receipt of
Galileo's weak signal even more difficult. The arraying
technique, however, allows more of the spacecraft's signal to
be captured, thereby enabling a higher data rate. The
arraying will be used daily throughout most of the remainder
of the mission.

The debut of routine arraying of the Deep Space
Network antennas represents the final installment of several
imaginative engineering solutions that have enabled the
Galileo Project team to carry out its mission despite the
loss of the spacecraft's main telecommunications antenna.

"With our spacecraft software and ground receiving
station improvements already in place, this new arraying
capability is the icing on the cake," said Galileo Mission
Director Neal Ausman of JPL. "The new array is critical to
getting Galileo's scientific data from the Jupiter orbital
tour back to Earth."

Arraying, together with other improvements in the
space-to-ground communications link, increases by 10 times
the quantity of raw data received from Galileo than would
otherwise be possible. Changes in the way the Galileo
spacecraft edits and compresses data, results in an
additional factor of 10. When taken together, these
improvements enable Galileo to meet 70 percent of its
original science goals.

Software changes on the spacecraft now ensure that
every bit of science and engineering telemetry from the
spacecraft is crammed with as much information as possible.
So while the data amount received from Galileo is
comparatively small, all of it is highly valued.

Galileo's high-gain antenna was to have provided a
134-kilobit-per-second real-time data rate from Jupiter. Had
no improvements been made in the Deep Space Network, only a
10-bit-per-second data rate would have been possible with
Galileo's small low-gain antenna for most of the mission.
These improvements, however, along with the changes made on
the spacecraft, further increase the downlinked data to an
effective rate of 1,000 bits per second.

"As the Earth turns relative to Galileo's position in
the sky, different arrayed antennas will hand-off the receipt
of data from Galileo over a 12-hour period," said Leslie J.
Deutsch of JPL, one of the principal innovators behind the
solution for Galileo's communications problem. The array
electronically links the stadium-size, 230-foot diameter dish
antenna at the Deep Space Network complex in Goldstone, CA,
with an identical antenna located at the Australia site, in
addition to two 112-foot antennas at the Canberra complex.
The California and Australia sites concurrently pick up
communications with Galileo. The Parkes radio telescope
joins in with the Canberra station for six hours each day.

"For two hours each day, a total of up to five
antennas are pointing in unison to receive transmissions from
Galileo," Deutsch said.

The new hardware, software and operations that make
antenna arraying possible for Galileo represents a major
improvement in the world's deep space telecommunications
system for other missions as well, said Paul Westmoreland,
director of telecommunications and mission operations at JPL.
The effort cost $30.5 million.

"The methods used and much of the equipment will be
especially useful for the new era of our faster, better,
cheaper interplanetary missions," Westmoreland said. "This
opens the way for mission developers to reduce future
spacecraft costs by using smaller spacecraft antennas and

In the future, after the Galileo mission, other
antennas may be added to routine arraying for spacecraft
communications and radio science experiments. Among them are
the twenty-seven 82-foot diameter antennas that make up the
Very Large Array of radiotelescopes in Socorro, NM, and the
210-foot radio telescope facility at Usuda, Japan.

The new arraying capability sprang forth as an
emergency measure to mitigate the loss of Galileo's high-gain
antenna, but the effort now represents a permanent change and
improvement in the way deep space telecommunications will be
conducted from now on, said Joseph I. Statman,
telecommunications specialist at JPL, who engineered the

"Galileo gets credit for giving arraying a huge
push," said Statman. "This is the first time we will see
routine arraying of antennas for spacecraft communications
day in, day out. The Deep Space Network is now implementing
arraying at Goldstone, as part of its standard

Several 112-foot antennas at Goldstone are to be
outfitted with the equipment needed so they can operate
together as an array, he said. "This represents the wave of
the future because no more 70-meter antennas will be built
for the Deep Space Network; only 34-meter antennas will be
added to the network from now on. When future spacecraft
with small transmitters and antennas require a higher
downlink data rate, we will have a field of antennas with
which we can manage and satisfy our customers' demands for
telecommunications resources."

JPL manages the Galileo project for NASA's Office of
Space Science, Washington, DC.