NASA's Jupiter-bound Galileo spacecraft will zoom past Earth next week, taking pictures and making measurements as if its home planet were an alien world.

"It will be the first time the Earth has been viewed from this perspective. I expect it will give us a greater appreciation of this place," said Bill O'Neil, project manager at the NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.Galileo's close encounter with Earth will take place on Dec. 8 and is aimed at using the planet's gravity like a slingshot to send the craft on the right path.

The craft will swoop about 593 miles above the southwest Atlantic Ocean at 12:35 p.m. PST Dec. 8. Galileo was 3.97 million miles from Earth Friday.

Galileo will be the first planetary craft to approach Earth from space.