Can a spacecraft fly through a gas giant like Jupiter?

NASA sunk three spacecraft into gas giants. Two of them, Galileo and Cassini, were at the end of their missions when they encountered doom in the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn, respectively. But the Galileo spacecraft arrived with a passenger — a probe designed to land in a giant gaseous atmosphere.

NASA lost contact with the Galileo probe about an hour later, when it reached 93 miles (150 kilometers) into Jupiter’s atmosphere. Scientists are not sure how deep the probe reached before it was destroyed by Jupiter’s high pressures and temperatures. But could we one day send a spacecraft deeper into a gas giant like Jupiter or Saturn? Given that these massive planets may not have a solid surface on which to crash, could a spacecraft fly past a gas giant?

Olga Dmitrieva

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