Ray, Trina L. Cassini Mission, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California.
Spilker, Linda Cassini Mission, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California.
Sollazzo, Claudio Huygens Mission, European Space Agency.
- Close flyby of Phoebe
- Is Saturn's rotation slowing?
- Observations of Saturn's rings
- New radiation belt
- Unusual magnetic field axis alignment
- Titan observations by Cassini orbiter
- Prometheus stealing material from F ring
- Dione mystery resolved
- Giant mountain range on Iapetus
- Probe release and Huygens mission
- Enceladus observations
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
The international Cassini-Huygens spacecraft was launched on October 15, 1997, on a 7-year 3-billion-kilometer (2-billion-mile) journey to the distant planet Saturn. On July 1, 2004, the spacecraft burned its main engines for over 96 min and became the first spacecraft to go into permanent orbit around this giant planet. The next 4 months were spent on the single largest orbit (almost 120 days) of the mission, followed by the first targeted Titan flyby in October. Titan is the largest moon of Saturn, larger than the planet Mercury. The second large orbit (almost 50 days) brought the spacecraft around again to Titan in December. On the third orbit (only 32 days), the spacecraft executed a series of maneuvers that set up the release of the Huygens probe for an impact trajectory with Titan. Saturn orbit insertion (SOI) and the landing of the Huygens probe on the surface of Titan were the two critical successes of the first year in orbit, but throughout 2004 the spacecraft made 10 orbits of Saturn, traveled 63 million miles, took over 30,000 images, returned over 60 gigabytes of data, and made its first visits to several of the major satellites (see table). A string of remarkable discoveries have followed.
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