Twenty years ago today — February 9, 1990* — the Galileo spacecraft flew by Venus in a course-adjustment maneuver on its way to Jupiter. The probe passed about 10,000 miles (16,000 km) above our sister planet.
(Venus images from the Galileo spacecraft, taken through violet and infrared filters. NASA image.)
The Venus flyby gave the mission team the chance to test out Galileo‘s cameras and instruments in preparation for its encounter with Jupiter. The “gravity-assist” of the spacecraft swinging around the planet boosted Galileo’s speed and set it on an intercept course with … Earth. Two similar maneuvers around our home planet would eventually place the spacecraft on course for its final destination.
Here’s the press release on the flyby, which is kind of interesting, and here’s a gallery of images from the encounter.
*February 9th on the West Coast, where the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was controlling the mission; it was already February 10th on the East Coast. (If that matters to you.)