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This attractive mint sheet honors the Galileo unmanned spacecraft, which was launched October 18, 1989. On December 7, 1995, Galileo became the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter. For nearly eight years, Galileo provided scientists with a wealth of information about the planet.
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The Galileo spacecraft was named after one of the most famous astronomers of all time – Galileo Galilei. Today, Galileo has many nicknames – father of modern observational astronomy, father of modern physics, father of science, and father of modern science. But during his lifetime, his ideas about physics and astronomy put him at odds with philosophers and clerics. He was tried by the Inquisition twice and placed under house arrest for the last years of his life because he believed the sun was the center of the universe. Yet, to modern scientists, including the famous Stephen Hawking, “Galileo, perhaps more than any other single person, was responsible for the birth of modern science.”
Born in Pisa, Italy, in 1564, Galileo seriously considered becoming a priest when he grew up. Instead, he studied medicine at the University of Pisa and then mathematics and fine art. For several years, he taught math and art, while making several significant discoveries. These include the kinematics of motion and astronomy, the strength of materials, and improving the telescope. Using his new telescope, Galileo discovered the moons of Jupiter.
One belief for which he was most criticized was that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the universe, and that all planets revolved around it. At the time, this belief (known as heliocentrism) was considered “false and contrary to scripture.” When brought before the Inquisition of the church, he was ordered to abandon his belief. He agreed to, but later published his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems and was found “vehemently suspect of heresy” by the Inquisition. He was forced to live the rest of his life under house arrest.