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The Romance of Adventure: Remembering Galileo's Ride on STS-34 (Part 1)
By Ben Evans, on October 15th, 2016

Atlantis roars into orbit on 18 October 1989 to deploy the Galileo spacecraft on its mission to Jupiter. Photo Credit: NASA

When the Galileo spacecraft drifted out of Shuttle Atlantis’ payload bay on the evening of 18 October 1989, on the first leg of its voyage to Jupiter, the sight was a moving one for Shannon Lucid. As STS-34’s lead mission specialist, she was primarily responsible for the deployment of one of the most important payloads ever launched by NASA. For almost a dozen years, Lucid had lived and worked with the reality that her job was an overwhelmingly technical one, drawing from its roots in engineering and pure science … but on this day, as Galileo and its Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) booster floated silently into the inky void, she beheld a new reality: the romance of adventure. Emblazoned across the base of the spacecraft which would one day circle Jupiter and deposit an instrumented probe into its atmosphere were two names: “Galileo” in script and “NASA” in worm-like block capitals.

To Lucid, those two words symbolized exactly what the mission stood for: The script represented the romance of adventure and exploration, whilst the worm was indicative of the outstanding engineering and scientific talent which had brought this awesome project from the drawing board to fruition. Yet Galileo’s journey to the launch pad had been a long and tortured one, and its voyage to Jupiter would be longer and harder still.

The mission traced its genesis back to the mid-1970s. Named in honor of the great Italian scientist, Galileo Galilei, whose endeavors in the early 17th century included the discovery of Jupiter’s four large moons—Ganymede, Callisto, Europa, and Io—but which also assured him a retirement under house arrest, courtesy of the Roman Inquisition.

Originally known as “Jupiter Orbiter and Probe” (JOP), the name “Galileo” seemed an obvious one and the project received Congressional approval on 1 October 1977, with a planned launch four years later. However, delays to the first flight of the shuttle and the limited capability of Boeing’s IUS to boost Galileo on its way to Jupiter raised concerns. In 1979, Washington Post journalist Thomas O’Toole highlighted that problems with certifying the three Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) to operate at the 109 percent performance threshold needed to lift Galileo posed additional obstacles.

Galileo’s target was Jupiter, the largest planet in the Solar System. Photo Credit: NASA, ESA and E. Karkoschka (University of Arizona)

By now, the launch had slipped until 1982 at the earliest. O’Toole noted that if the 109-percent-capable SSMEs were not ready for this date, Galileo could slip even further. Timing was critical, since a 1982 launch depended upon a Mars gravity assist and if it was delayed much further, the potential existed to halve the scientific mission at Jupiter, from 11 to just five orbits of the giant planet. At length, in late 1980, under pressure from Rep. Edward Boland, a Democrat from Mass., NASA was obliged to abandon the IUS plan and initiate planning for a launch on General Dynamics’ liquid-propeled Centaur-G Prime, which Administrator Robert Frosch had earlier opposed.

The situation for Galileo’s future dimmed substantially for much of 1981, with Congressional mutterings of closing down the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., which managed many of NASA’s planetary projects. A massive letter-writing campaign to George Keyworth, head of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, was spearheaded by Galileo investigator and famed physicist James van Allen. In a speech to the National Academy of Sciences, van Allen identified Galileo as one of the most exciting missions of exploration ever undertaken and that its cancellation would prove devastating.

Thankfully, in December 1981 the Office of Management and Budget relented, reinstated Galileo and it was rescheduled for 1983. There was a caveat, however: Galileo would not use the powerful Centaur-G Prime. In January 1982, NASA rescoped the mission and returned to the less powerful IUS fitted with a third, “injection stage” to provide increased propulsion. As a consequence, Galileo’s launch was rescheduled for August 1985, but the absence of the powerful Centaur meant that it would take five years, instead of two, and the spacecraft would be injected into a two-year-long elliptical solar orbit, would require a gravity assisted boost from Earth in June 1987, and would finally reach Jupiter in January 1990.

By the summer of 1982, some members of Congress—led by New Mexico Sen. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, a former Moonwalker and chairman of the Senate Space Subcommittee of the Science, Commerce and Transportation Committee—were pushing vigorously for a return to the Centaur and a reduced journey time. Despite worries about additional expense in changing boosters again, coupled with concerns about further delays to the mission, in July President Reagan approved the move and NASA was forced to replan. The Centaur would be used to boost Galileo, but launch would be unavoidably postponed until May 1986, with a two-year flight time to the giant planet.

Artist’s impression of Galileo, attached to the giant Centaur-G Prime upper stage, shortly before deployment from the Shuttle in May 1986. The Challenger disaster sounded the death knell for the highly dangerous human-rated Centaur. Image Credit: NASA

At this stage, the mission truly entered the phase of equipment testing. In the early summer of 1983, the parachute for the instrumented probe, which would descend into Jupiter’s atmosphere, successfully passed full-scale tests, and by September of that year the main spacecraft and probe were integrated. A model of the Centaur passed its own tests in September 1984, and the actual flight model was rolled out of General Dynamics’ plant in San Diego, Calif., in August of the following year. By this time, NASA Administrator Jim Beggs had endorsed other possible tasks for Galileo, most notably a flyby of the asteroid Amphitrite, which it was hoped might unlock secrets of the primordial solar nebula from which the Sun and planets formed. An Amphitrite flyby would delay the Jupiter arrival from August to December 1988, however, and it was decided to make a final decision after launch. In December 1985, only weeks before the loss of Challenger, Galileo was transported, cross-country by truck, guarded by police, state troopers, and other guards, and arrived safely at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for launch the following May.

When Challenger exploded in the skies above Florida on 28 January 1986, Galileo was undergoing final checkout and preparation for attachment to its Centaur-G Prime booster. In the weeks after the accident, NASA Acting Administrator William Graham spoke of the possibility of a return to flight in the spring of 1987, which kept alive the option to launch Galileo in the next Jovian “window” in June of that year. Eventually, the modifications to the shuttle’s Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) and the orbiters themselves inevitably pushed the return to flight further to the right.

On 19 June 1986, newly-reappointed NASA Administrator Jim Fletcher formally canceled Centaur-G Prime and new options had to be found. One of these was an “enlargement” of the IUS, possibly coupled with an additional booster, such as a Special Payload Assist Module (PAM-S). However, as already noted, the IUS was insufficient to send Galileo directly to Jupiter and alternate trajectories, involving planetary gravity assists, were explored. Even before NASA settled on October-November 1989 as the most appropriate “window” for Jupiter, Galileo’s planners were already working toward this date, creating a complex flight profile, known as the Venus-Earth-Earth Gravity Assist (VEEGA), in which the spacecraft would perform a flyby of Venus in February 1990, return to Earth in December, and be placed into a two-year elliptical solar orbit. Returning a second time to Earth in December 1992, it would pick up sufficient energy to reach Jupiter in December 1995.

The VEEGA technique was highly conservative of Galileo’s on-board propellant, with predictions indicating that up to 176 pounds (80 kg) would remain, even after the arrival at Jupiter and completion of its primary mission. The trajectory also permitted possible rendezvous with up to three asteroids—Ausonia, Gaspra, and Ida—and eventually the latter two were selected. However, since the spacecraft would fly much closer to the Sun than had been planned, additional thermal shielding was added in the three-year down time after Challenger. It is interesting that Galileo also “leapfrogged” Ulysses in the launch pecking order. “NASA based its decision on optimising data return from the two missions,” wrote Michael Meltzer in Mission to Jupiter. “Launching Ulysses first would have resulted in too long a wait before Galileo reached Jupiter and began transmitting prime data from the Jovian system.”

Jupiter and Galileo adorn the official crew patch for STS-34, together with the names of the five-member crew: Commander Don Williams, Pilot Mike McCulley and Mission Specialists Shannon Lucid, Franklin Chang-Diaz, and Ellen Baker. Image Credit: NASA

As launch neared, with an opening of the Jupiter window at 1:29 p.m. EST on 12 October 1989, there were still last-minute concerns about Galileo … although these were not focused upon its mission, but upon its power system. Since the spacecraft would be traveling so far from the Sun, the use of solar cells for electrical provision was impractical. Therefore, General Electric supplied a pair of Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs), fueled by fracture-resistant pellets of plutonium-238, whose decay produced heat which was in turn converted into electricity. To keep them at a safe distance from the sensitive scientific instruments, the RTGs were mounted on a boom, which extended them 16 feet (5 meters) away from the main body of the spacecraft.

Both power plants produced 570 watts of electricity at launch, which steadily decreased by around half a watt per month and reached around 493 watts by the time Galileo reached Jupiter. Shuttle Atlantis also required modification to incorporate an RTG coolant line and purging system in her payload bay. In the late 1980s, of course, “nuclear” was a dirty word—a word which conjured images of military superpowers, the faceless Department of Defense and Department of Energy, and greedy power corporations. Peace marches were undertaken and representatives of several anti-nuclear groups gathered at the gates of KSC to express their disgust and fear that a Challenger-like explosion could spread radioactive plutonium across much of the United States’ eastern seaboard.

The allegation that NASA was playing “ecological roulette” with the lives of Floridians was not groundless. Memories of the “messy” crash of the Soviet Union’s nuclear-fueled Cosmos 954 satellite in Canada, a decade earlier, were fresh in many minds, and even the noted physicist Carl Sagan remarked that “there is nothing absurd about either side of this argument.” Final approval to proceed with the Galileo launch came from President George H.W. Bush himself in September 1989. Three days before the scheduled launch, on 9 October, outraged protestors staged a mock “death scene” at the Cape and even threatened to sit on Pad 39B itself to prevent Atlantis from launching into orbit.

STS-34 astronaut Franklin Chang-Díaz was astonished by the controversy surrounding a mission which was not a military one, but a scientific odyssey. “It was striking to drive through the gates…and see all these demonstrators, trying to stop the launch,” he told a Smithsonian interviewer, years later. “The topic of nuclear power is going to come up over and over again as we move into space. It’s a key issue we are going to have to resolve, because the survival of people in space, far away from Earth, will totally depend on the use of nuclear power.”

The launch window for Jupiter would close on 21 November 1989, after which the next opportunity would not arise until 1991, so there existed a very real risk that the mission might be canceled. Security was increased at KSC, as guards armed with M-16 assault rifles and 9 mm semi-automatic pistols patrolled the perimeter of the launch site. A faulty main engine controller put paid to the 12 October attempt and launch was rescheduled for the 17th, then the 18th when rain showers drifted within 18 miles (30 km) of the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF). During these few days, final efforts to stop the launch were rejected by the Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. In her summary, Chief Justice Patricia Wald declared that she could find no evidence that NASA had improperly compiled its environmental assessment reports for Galileo, and on 16 October a number of activists were arrested at the Cape for trespassing.

With this final clearance, the last hurdle was removed before Galileo’s long-awaited mission to the King of the Planets.


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Odp: [AS] The Romance of Adventure: Remembering Galileo's Ride on STS-34
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The Romance of Adventure: Remembering Galileo’s Ride on STS-34 (Part 2)
By Ben Evans, on October 16th, 2016

Jupiter and its volcanic moon Io were key focuses for the Galileo mission. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Goddard Space Flight Center

Almost three decades ago, shuttle mission STS-34 and the crew of Atlantis rocketed into orbit to launch NASA’s Galileo spacecraft on a lengthy odyssey to Jupiter. As described in yesterday’s AmericaSpace history article, the mission was extensively delayed, by political and technical issues—including the Challenger tragedy—and almost met with outright cancellation, when anti-nuclear protesters campaigned against the use of its plutonium-powered Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG). However, after considerable rain, on the wet morning of 18 October 1989, the five astronauts departed their crew quarters at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), bound for Pad 39B and Atlantis.

In command of STS-34 was Don Williams, who had previously flown as pilot of Mission 51D in the spring of 1985. He was joined by pilot Mike McCulley and mission specialists Shannon Lucid—a veteran of the multi-national Mission 51G—Franklin Chang-Díaz, and Ellen Baker. The quintet had been training since November 1988. Their launch on 18 October was postponed by 3.5 minutes, in order to update the shuttle’s computers for a change in the Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) site, which had been moved to Zaragoza in Spain, due to heavy rain at Ben Guerir in Morocco. Finally, at 12:53 p.m. EST, Atlantis thundered into clear Florida skies, bound for low-Earth orbit.

Despite all of his training, the dynamic nature of the launch surprised Mike McCulley, who described much of its effect as “acoustic,” which “shakes your body and your soul.” At one stage, a few seconds after liftoff, as the tower disappeared faster than his simulator experience had taught him to expect, he turned to Williams and jokingly remarked: “You didn’t prepare me for this!” Another thing which came as unexpected was the separation of the twin Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs), about two minutes into the ascent. “In the simulator, there’s a flashbulb that goes off when you get to SRB sep,” McCulley , “and in real life there’s an explosion that goes off, right in front of your face. It was wonderful … but it was surprising!”

Atlantis roars into orbit on 18 October 1989 to deploy the Galileo spacecraft on its mission to Jupiter. Photo Credit: NASA

To be fair to Williams, his position in command of STS-34 was quite distinct to his previous stint as a shuttle pilot. “There’s some amount of loneliness at the top,” he told the NASA oral historian, “and having that authority and with it comes the responsibility for accomplishing the mission. With those first two comes the most important one, in my mind, which I learned early on as a midshipman at Purdue … is with the authority and responsibility comes the accountability and if something goes wrong, it’s not somebody else’s fault, it’s the person in command’s fault! The same thing is true when you command a mission. You’re accountable for the performance of the crew, for the accomplishment of the mission, for getting the objectives completed successfully, and for getting the spacecraft back so somebody else can use it again. That’s the name of the game.” Command was important to Williams. In fact, by his own admission, it was his primary goal as a pilot: to command the shuttle. “Okay, this is what you came here for,” he told himself. “Let’s go do it.”

Six hours into the mission, at 7:15 p.m., under the watchful eye of Shannon Lucid, Galileo and its Boeing-built Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) booster were tilted to their deployment position and set free. “Galileo is on its way to another world,” exulted Williams. “It’s in the hands of the best flight controllers in the world. Fly safely!” Franklin Chang-Díaz felt a very personal affinity with Galileo. To him, it was a memorable occasion, because it represented his childhood desire to leave Earth and travel to other planets. Shortly thereafter, Williams and McCulley maneuvered Atlantis to a safe separation distance, and the IUS fired to boost Galileo onto a course for Venus, which it would reach in a little over three months’ time.

“Both Ellen and I sighed a great sigh of relief,” recalled Lucid, “because we figured Galileo was not our concern at that point, because we’d gotten rid of it. Happiness was an empty payload bay and we got happier and happier as the IUS and Galileo went further away from us.” An hour after deployment, the IUS fired to commence Galileo’s six-year journey to the King of the Planets.

As circumstances transpired, it would prove a remarkable example of the triumph of human ingenuity over adversity. Eighteen months into its cruise, and several months after its first flyby of Earth, Galileo’s high-gain antenna only partially unfurled, threatening to ruin the mission. “Workaround” techniques were devised to use the low-gain antenna instead, and the spacecraft returned remarkable images from the asteroids Gaspra (in October 1991) and Ida (in August 1993) and, far from conducting two years of scientific exploration at Jupiter, Galileo spent almost eight years in operation. During that period, it measured the chemical composition of the giant planet’s atmosphere, directly observed its ammonia clouds and mysterious Great Red Spot, analyzed the causes and effects of volcanism on Io, and yielded tantalizing clues for liquid oceans beneath the frozen surfaces of Europa and Ganymede, and the extent of Jupiter’s gigantic magnetosphere was mapped and modeled for the first time. On its way to the planet, in July 1994, Galileo also observed the impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 into the Jovian clouds.

By the time Galileo eventually left Earth in October 1989, it was boosted towards Jupiter by a less powerful Inertial Upper Stage (IUS). Photo Credit: NASA

Having set Galileo on its way, for all intents and purposes, the primary mission of STS-34 was over. Several secondary experiments were performed, including the first flight of the Shuttle Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet (SSBUV) instrument in the payload bay. This was part of an ongoing NASA effort to calibrate ozone sounders on free-flying satellites and verify the accuracy of atmospheric ozone and solar irradiance data. A polymer solidification study was conducted on the middeck, and observations were made of lightning events in the high atmosphere.

Living in space, even for just five days, was quite different to anything the astronauts had experienced before. Williams described it as akin to a camping trip, with the exception that none of them departed their camper van, at all, for the entire five days. “What’s it like to be in space?” he rhetorically asked his audience at the STS-34 post-flight press conference. “Unfortunately, this is one of the most difficult questions to answer, since the word ‘like’ implies a comparison, and it’s not ‘like’ anything you’ve ever done before. So most of us are stuck with describing the differences. Weightlessness. How do you describe weightlessness, when we live in a world where everything weighs something? The ability to move about, almost be thinking about it. No up or down. Behavior and misbehavior of common, ordinary things, such as liquids, elastic, food, objects.

“Watch the video with us,” Williams invited his audience. “Compare it to things you do on Earth. Look for the differences. Perhaps you can describe ’em to us!”

Betwixt this wonderland of weightlessness, the crew was periodically called away to tend to minor issues with Atlantis herself. A problem with one of the shuttle’s Auxiliary Power Units (APUs) triggered an alarm on 22 October, together with a glitch with the Flash Evaporator System (FES) and cryogenic oxygen manifolds. Predicted high winds at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on the 23rd prompted a decision to bring the shuttle home two orbits earlier than planned, and Williams and McCulley guided the shuttle to a smooth touchdown at 6:33 a.m. PST (12:33 p.m. EST), just 20 minutes short of five full days after launch.

Don Williams regarded STS-34 and having accomplished something quite remarkable for science. “We knew that Galileo was going to be a lasting program,” he said, “as opposed to the first flight, where we deployed the two satellites. The Galileo mission, we knew, if it was successful, the spacecraft was going to end up in orbit around Jupiter several years later and then there were going to be several years of data and images sent back. It was going to be a living, ongoing program and we got to be a part of it.”


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Odp: [AS] The Romance of Adventure: Remembering Galileo's Ride on STS-34
« Odpowiedź #2 dnia: Październik 21, 2023, 13:13 »
Misja rozpoczęła się z 3-letnim opóźnieniem, spowodowanym katastrofą Challengera.
Sonda znalazła się w magazynie, co z kolei wpłynęło na pogorszenie właściwości smarów w elementach anteny HGA (High-Gain Antenna).
Dodatkowe pogorszenie parametrów smarów miało miejsce z powodu wibracji w czasie transportu drogowego na Cape Canaveral (tak było taniej, niż użycie transportu powietrznego).
Antena o dużym zysku nigdy nie została rozwinięta.
Antena HGA miała zapewnić transmisję danych z szybkością 134 400 bitów/sek. z orbity wokół Jowisza.
Jej rolę przejęła antena o małym zysku LGA 1 (Low-Gain Antenna).
Modyfikacje anten Deep Space Network oraz łączenie ich w sieć pozwoliło zapewnić szybkość transmisji danych do 160 bitów/sek.
Mimo problemów misja okazała się wielkim sukcesem.

Groups Protest Use of Plutonium on Galileo
By William J. Broad Oct. 10, 1989

THE nearly 50 pounds of plutonium that will produce electricity on the Galileo probe make this space shuttle launching the most disputed ever.

A trio of anti-nuclear groups has sued to block the launching, saying that a shuttle disaster could produce a rain of radioactive debris that would cause thousands of cancer deaths.

NASA, pointing with pride to a $50 million, decade-long program to make the power pack as safe as possible, says the groups are wildly exaggerating the risks and overlooking the benefits of the mission.

Suit Seeks to Halt Launching Today in Federal District Court in Washington, a judge is scheduled to hold a hearing that centers on the groups' charge that the danger of plutonium contamination from a shuttle disaster is far greater than NASA has admitted.

''After the Challenger explosion, Chernobyl and the Valdez accident we have learned that technology can go terribly wrong,'' said Bruce Gagnon of the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice, one of the groups suing to stop the mission.

Some of the anti-nuclear activists have said they would sit in on the launching pad to block the launching.

''They indicated to us and to the press an intent to do some back-country-type activities to try to stop the launch,'' said Gary Wistrand, deputy director of the space center's security office. ''We are postured to try to prevent that.'' The space center is patrolled by armed guards and by helicopters and boats. Power From Radioactivity

Because it will travel too far from the sun to be powered by solar panels, Galileo carries two radioisotope thermoelectric generators, each weighing 124 pounds. As the plutonium-238 dioxide inside undergoes radioactive decay, it produces 285 watts of electrical power for the robot craft. A similar power source was used on the recent Voyager probe of Neptune.

Safety precautions are clearly needed because plutonium is highly toxic if inhaled or ingested, causing cancer that can be fatal.

According to the Energy Department, which made the power generators, the ways the risk has been reduced start with the plutonium itself, which is pressed into a pellet about the size of a marshmallow. The plutonium is in ceramic form, which makes it insoluble in water and unlikely to break into a fine dust that could be inhaled.

''It's similar to your ceramic kitchen cook wear,'' said James A. Turi, director of the office of special nuclear applications at the Energy Department. ''It breaks into large chunks.''

The plutonium pellets are encased in iridium, an extremely hard metal that can withstand high heat. Iridium is used in pen points. A pair of iridium-clad pellets are then enclosed in a capsule made of graphite, which has a high tolerance to heat. Pairs of capsules, in sleeves, fit into graphite fuel modules. The modules are set end to end, then surrounded by 70 layers of insulation, made alternately of molybdenum, a metal, and astroquartz, which is like fiberglass. Plutonium Heat Units

In addition to the two power generators, the spacecraft will carry 129 tiny plutonium heater units to protect instruments from the cold of space. The plutonium in these units is the size and shape of a pencil eraser, locked inside a metallic case as well as multiple layers of graphite. Throughout the long journey, each heater unit will produce one watt of heat, about the same as that given off by a miniature Christmas tree bulb.

Mr. Turi said the Energy Department has done about 100 tests over a decade to check the safety of the plutonium units, subjecting them to a variety of conditions they might encounter in a shuttle accident. In one, a fragment of a shuttle booster rocket was attached to a rocket sled and slammed into a power generator at a velocity of 266 miles per hour, with no release of fuel. The tests, the Energy Department says, show the units are highly resistant to damage.

The nub of the controversy is how resistant. NASA has said the highest probability of launch-area release of plutonium due to a shuttle accident is less than 1 in 2,500. The anti-nuclear groups disagree, saying the odds are as great as 1 in 430.

The two sides also disagree on the medical effects of a plutonium release. The groups estimate that it could cause thousands of fatal cancers. But the space agency says so little plutonium would be released that there would be no additional cancer deaths.

NASA's health-effects estimate is much more optimistic than a Federal interagency panel that evaluated Galileo. It reported that a launching pad accident could release enough plutonium to cause 80 cancer deaths eventually. The panel said that if the probe re-entered the atmosphere as it swung by the Earth, up to 2,000 cancer deaths could be caused by released plutonium.

Steven Aftergood, a senior research analyst with the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists, said the real issue was how much risk was acceptable. ''My own judgment is that the risk is small,'' he said, ''and the scientific payoff is large.''
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