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The Planetary Report • March/April 1997

Fantastically Weird

On the Cover: "Fantastically weird" slipped out as geologist Jim Head described the latest Galileo images of Europa. This is one of the most enigmatic worlds seen yet by spacecraft, and the closer we look, the stranger it gets. It may possess an ocean beneath a water-ice crust, perhaps hiding a potential habitat for life. Here we show the moon as it appeared from 677,000 kilometers (420,00 miles) away last September during Galileo's flyby of Ganymede. At left is a false-color image, with contrasts enhanced to bring out compositional differences in the primarily ice crust. At right is a natural-color image, showing Europa as it might appear to an observer riding the spacecraft.
JPL / NASA

Features

4 Waltzing by Mathilde: NEAR's First Asteroid Encounter: Robert Farquhar and Donald Yeomans report on this small object with great potential.

9 Farewell, PioneerJames D. Burke discusses how Pioneer 10 will soon fall silent after 25 years—a victim of budget cuts, not the rigors of space.

10 Weird and Wonderful: Europa Keeps Her Secrets: Charlene Anderson tempts us with tantalizing Galileo images of Europa, and what they could mean for the potential for a subsurface ocean.

14 Sagan's Fire: A New Challenge: Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman ask for your help in guiding the Society to the best of all possible futures.

Departments

3 Members' Dialogue Inspiration and praise.

15 World Watch Upcoming European and Japanese missions; Russia looks at Mars '96 reflight options.

16 Basics of Spaceflight End-to-end data flow—the downlink part.

18 News & Reviews Jack Frost's artistry; extrasolar Europas?

19 Society News Mars balloon prototype explodes; META II restarts SETI.

20 Q&A Will we find Earth/Mars rocks on the Moon?

astronaut on Phobos
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