Cassini Mission to Saturn Celebrates 10 Years Since Launch

October 12, 2007
Cassini Mission to Saturn Celebrates 10 Years Since Launch
This picture of the Cassini launch was taken by Ken Sturgill of Marion, Virginia

Celebrating the 10th anniversary of its launch from Cape Canaveral, the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn is once again at the center of scientific attention. Its latest discoveries about the ringed planet are a leading topic of conversation among the nearly 1,500 scientists gathered this week at a major astronomy conference in Orlando, Fla.

Cassini rode into space Oct. 15, 1997, atop a U.S. Air Force Titan IVB. Its mission: to orbit and study the Saturnian system for four years and to put the European Space Agency's Huygens Probe in position to parachute down to the frozen surface of Saturn's Earthlike moon Titan. Since entering orbit around Saturn, Cassini's scientific instruments, powered by radioisotope thermoelectric generators, have returned immense amounts of new information via NASA's global Deep Space Network to the international team of scientists working on the mission.

Scientists aren't the only ones to benefit from Cassini's voyage of discovery. Since arriving at Saturn three-and-a-half years ago, Cassini's revelations have captured the public imagination. Its spectacular views of Saturn and its realm have graced the covers of magazines around the world.

"With Cassini, amazing discoveries have almost become routine," says Cassini project scientist Dennis Matson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., where the international mission is managed.

"Orbiting Saturn, Cassini is in the middle of the greatest natural laboratory accessible to us in space," says Matson. "With its rings, dozens of moons and magnetic environment, Saturn is like a mini-solar system, with Saturn as a stand-in for the sun, and the moons and rings like planets in formation. Through Cassini and its instruments, we are making fundamental strides in understanding the physical processes that created and govern this and other solar systems."

Some of the discoveries include ice geysers shooting from Saturn's moon Enceladus and the finding that one of Saturn's rings is created from these ice particles. Recently, scientists found that material from Enceladus is also affecting the rotation of Saturn's magnetic field. And an onboard radar instrument, which sees through clouds, has been unveiling the fascinating world of Titan, the large moon with complex chemistry and lakes of hydrocarbons.

More information about the Cassini mission is available at www.nasa.gov/cassini and saturn.jpl.nasa.gov .

Source: NASA

Explore further: Cassini to make last close flyby of Saturn moon Dione

Related Stories

Cassini image: Dark side of Enceladus

August 26, 2015

Enceladus looks as though it is half lit by sunlight in this view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, but looks can be deceiving. The area on the right, where surface features can be made out, are actually illuminated by light ...

The gas giant Jupiter

August 26, 2015

Ever since the invention of the telescope four hundred years ago, astronomers have been fascinated by the gas giant known as Jupiter. Between it's constant, swirling clouds, its many, many moons, and its red spot, there are ...

What is the asteroid belt?

August 24, 2015

In the 18th century, observations made of all the known planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) led astronomers to discern a pattern in their orbits. Eventually, this led to the Titius–Bode law, which ...

Cassini's final breathtaking close views of Dione

August 21, 2015

A pockmarked, icy landscape looms beneath NASA's Cassini spacecraft in new images of Saturn's moon Dione taken during the mission's last close approach to the small, icy world. Two of the new images show the surface of Dione ...

The Planet Saturn

August 3, 2015

The farthest planet from the Sun that be observed with the naked eye, the existence of Saturn has been known for thousands of years. And much like all celestial bodies that can be observed with the aid of instruments – ...

Recommended for you

Prawn Nebula: Cosmic recycling

September 2, 2015

Dominating this image is part of the nebula Gum 56, illuminated by the hot bright young stars that were born within it. For millions of years stars have been created out of the gas in this nebula, material which is later ...

Comet Hitchhiker would take tour of small bodies

September 2, 2015

Catching a ride from one solar system body to another isn't easy. You have to figure out how to land your spacecraft safely and then get it on its way to the next destination. The landing part is especially tricky for asteroids ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.