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Monday, 28 May, 2001, 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
Jupiter probe in trouble
Callisto surface
Galileo has already provided images of Callisto
A Nasa space probe exploring Jupiter and its moons is running into problems as it embarks on the latest stage of its mission.

The Galileo space craft has been experiencing problems with its camera system during its close flyby of Jupiter's moon, Callisto.

"We are not totally surprised, because we knew all along that Galileo might encounter difficulties from passing close to Jupiter's radiation belts," said Dr Eilene Theilig, Galileo project manager at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

"We are attempting to get a better understanding of the problem and to do what we can to minimise the loss of images."

During its flyby, Galileo was due to pass about 123 kilometers (76 miles) above Callisto, the second largest of Jupiter's 28 known moons.

The probe is taking pictures, measure magnetic forces, and study dust and smaller particles.

Mission exceeded

Nasa scientists operating the spacecraft are eager to to capture as many images as possible.

We're proud that this workhorse of a spacecraft

Nasa's Jay Bergstralh
Even if the camera fails, the spacecraft will have more than fulfilled its mission, which was originally to have ended in 1997.

Galileo has been orbiting Jupiter for more than five years and survived radiation exposure more than three times what it was built to withstand.

Its mission has previously been extended twice and during that time it has returned an enormous wealth of scientific information, including evidence of a sub-surface ocean on Jupiter's moon Europa.

"We're proud that this workhorse of a spacecraft has kept performing well enough that we can ask it to keep serving science a little longer," said Jay Bergstralh, Acting Director of Solar System Exploration at Nasa headquarters in Washington, DC.

After three more encounters with Jupiter's moon Io and the small inner moon Amalthea, Galileo's mission will end in dramatic style.

In 2003, the spacecraft is due to plunge into Jupiter's dense atmosphere, descending through the thick clouds until the pressure crushes it out of existence.

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