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: Juno mission scientists discuss Jupiter's mysteries

Related Stories

Juno mission scientists discuss Jupiter's mysteries

July 8, 2016

After nearly five years and 1.8 billion miles of space travel, NASA's Juno mission will arrive at Jupiter on July 4, 2016. Managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the spacecraft will orbit Jupiter for 20 months, completing ...

NASA sails full-speed ahead in solar system exploration

July 18, 2016

NASA's Juno is now poised to shine a spotlight on the origins and interior structure of the largest planet in our solar system. As we wait for Juno's first close-up images of Jupiter (to be taken Aug. 27 during the spacecraft's ...

Cassini image: Criss-crossed rings

April 29, 2016

At first glance, Saturn's rings appear to be intersecting themselves in an impossible way. In actuality, this view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows the rings in front of the planet, upon which the shadow of the rings ...

Recommended for you

Jupiter's great red spot heats planet's upper atmosphere

July 27, 2016

Researchers from Boston University's (BU) Center for Space Physics report today in Nature that Jupiter's Great Red Spot may provide the mysterious source of energy required to heat the planet's upper atmosphere to the unusually ...

Star's intense radiation beams whip neighboring red dwarf

July 27, 2016

New research from the University of Warwick finds a new type of exotic binary star, in which a rapidly-spinning burnt-out stellar remnant called a white dwarf sweeps powerful beams of particles and radiation over its nearby ...

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.