The Galileo Probe did not include any imaging equipment to return images or video as it descended into Jupiter's atmosphere. Are there missions underway or planned that will include visual data transmitted during a descent into the atmosphere of Jupiter or any other gas giant?

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    $\begingroup$ I'd imagine not - as the clouds would quickly obscure most light. Other sensors would generally be more productive. $\endgroup$
    – john3103
    Commented Oct 7, 2013 at 21:29
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    $\begingroup$ @john3103, Right, particularly if the probe is plummeting in. You might spend millions to get one pic back. But perhaps there are alternatives - a probe with wings, or a balloon, for example, that would buy some time. The pictures would have little scientific value, which is a primary consideration. Still, I'd love to see some pics of the upper layers. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 7, 2013 at 22:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Don — But space exploration is publicly funded. And does the public favor scientific value, or dreaming value ? ;-) $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 12:26
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    $\begingroup$ @NicolasBarbulesco My guess is that the greater mass of the public is interested in the dreaming value. I personally, want both. :) But, if pictures help sell the program to the voting public, that can translate to more support for the program as a whole, and keep the scientific end funded. There's more to it than that, certainly, but there's an interaction between the two. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 13:11
  • $\begingroup$ Dreaming contributes to the common good. Sadly our most successful motivation for space exploration to date has been outdoing those pesky communists. Maybe if Iran gets proper nukes we can have another cold war. One can only dream. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 16:50

2 Answers 2


As noted, there are no planned gas giant probes at the moment, at least not beyond an unfunded conceptual stage.

Images taken on approach and just before entry would be pretty cool and might even have some science value to provide weather context for the entry location. However you would need a much higher rate telecom system than what the probe itself would have. Such probes are designed to return data down to several bars pressure, where the data rates through the atmosphere are highly constrained. I could imagine a separate imaging stage for this purpose that is discarded just before entry, or that approaches in parallel with the probe with its own high-rate relay radio.

There's not much point in images during or after entry. They wouldn't see anything, other than radiation from the entry plume, and after that completely uniform nothingness.

  • $\begingroup$ I disagree with the end. Seeing direct images of giant gas planets would be pretty cool ! $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 7, 2014 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ The probe does not need to send the images before entry. The probe can take photos before entry, store them, and send them to Earth only later. Even at a low transfer rate. There is plenty of time. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 7, 2014 at 14:36

The list of planned deep space missions (NASA, ESA) does not contain any missions that will descend into a gas giant's atmosphere.

The closest thing is the joint NASA/ESA Titan Saturn System Mission, which is still at the proposal stage. This will explore Titan's atmosphere. The Titan Mare Explorer lander will include cameras that would work during the descent.


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