The roving robot spacecraft Galileo whizzed within 189 miles of southern Atlantic whitecaps Tuesday at 10:09 a.m. EST, using Earth's gravity as a final stage booster to sling it straight toward Jupiter.
Late Monday, traveling more than 30,000 m.p.h. on its second approach to Earth in two years, Galileo took hundreds of images of little-known regions around the moon's north pole and probed hard-to-reach parts of Earth's magnetic field.
The mission is being managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.
So far, the craft's winding, 1.5-billion-mile interplanetary course--scientists call it a "three-cushion billiard shot"--has carried it close to the sun and around Venus. That trajectory was designed to more than double the 2 1/2-ton craft's velocity by stealing from the planets a little of the energy that keeps them rolling through space.
Now outward bound, with the needed 8,000 m.p.h. added to its speed (relative to the sun), the craft is snapping a series of Earth images.
"How sweet it is," said project manager William J. O'Neil of the JPL. "We are on the way to Jupiter."