Cassini Mission to Saturn Celebrates 10 Years Since Launch

Oct 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: Ceres bright spots sharpen but questions remain

Related Stories

A guide to Saturn through opposition 2015

May 13, 2015

The month of May generally means the end of star party season here in Florida, as schools let out in early June, and humid days make for thunderstorm-laden nights. This also meant that we weren't about to ...

Saturn Moon's Activity Could Be 'Curtain Eruptions'

May 06, 2015

New research using data from NASA's Cassini mission suggests most of the eruptions from Saturn's moon Enceladus might be diffuse curtains rather than discrete jets. Many features that appear to be individual ...

Image: Groovy rings of Saturn

Mar 17, 2015

From afar, Saturn's rings look like a solid, homogenous disk of material. But upon closer examination from Cassini, we see that there are varied structures in the rings at almost every scale imaginable.

Recommended for you

Ceres bright spots sharpen but questions remain

14 hours ago

The latest views of Ceres' enigmatic white spots are sharper and clearer, but it's obvious that Dawn will have to descend much lower before we'll see crucial details hidden in this overexposed splatter of ...

Rosetta's view of a comet's "great divide"

14 hours ago

The latest image to be revealed of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comes from October 27, 2014, before the Philae lander even departed for its surface. Above we get a view of a dramatically-shadowed cliff ...

How long will our spacecraft survive?

14 hours ago

There are many hazards out there, eager to disrupt and dismantle the mighty machines we send out into space. How long can they survive to perform their important missions?

Why roundworms are ideal for space studies

15 hours ago

Humans have long been fascinated by the cosmos. Ancient cave paintings show that we've been thinking about space for much of the history of our species. The popularity of recent sci-fi movies suggest that ...

User comments : 0

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.