September 20, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Farewell, Galileo

A 14-year, three-billion-mile journey is coming to an end.

Tomorrow, NASA will intentionally send the Galileo space probe plummeting to a fiery death inside Jupiter's crushing atmosphere. Launched in 1989, the probe spent the eight years since arriving in the Jovian system studying the gas giant and its major moons Europa, Io, Callisto and Ganymede. It recorded the catastrophic impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 (in 1994, a year before its arrival); it caught images of volcanic eruptions on Io; and most significantly, it proved the existence of a liquid water ocean underneath the ice-covered surface of Europa, making the moon the most likely candidate for harboring extraterrestrial life in our solar system.

This latter discovery inspired my screenplay ICE MOON (about which I've already written). It has also fueled the imaginations of scientists and laypersons worldwide. And it is this possibility of life on Europa which prompted NASA's decision to destroy the Galileo spacecraft, rather than take the chance of it impacting the icy moon, and thus contaminating it with Earthling microbes. The probe has long outlived its original lifespan and planned mission, and could fail at any time.

I've followed the discoveries and achievements of this little spacecraft closely over the years, so its demise tomorrow comes with some degree of melancholy. But, bidding farewell to something that has had such a long and productive life is more celebratory than tragic—much like saying goodbye to Bob Hope, for instance. I can't wait to see what Galileo's successors find on (or within) Europa.

In February 2000, Galileo captured this image of a volcanic
eruption on Io. See the "Best of Galileo" gallery


©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year (almost), I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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September Columns:

9/29: Open Season
9/28: Runaway Train
9/27: The Seven
9/25: Dreamscape
9/24: Survivor: Sacramento
9/23: What Am I Doing at Work?
9/21: San Diego Chokers
9/20: Farewell, Galileo
9/17: Anything Can Happen
9/16: Midnight Writing
9/15: Decline and Fall
9/14: Loyalty By Default
9/13: Debt Snowball
9/12: My Cup Runneth Over
9/11: Unforgettable Day
9/10: Fall Approaches
9/9: Total Recall
9/8: Legal Illegals
9/7: 116 More Days
Previous months in The Archive

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