The European Space Agency's Huygens probe successfully detached from NASA's Cassini orbiter today to begin a three-week journey to Saturnï¿½s moon Titan. NASA's Deep Space Network tracking stations in Madrid, Spain and Goldstone, Calif., received the signal a little before 7:24 p.m. (PST). All systems performed as expected and there were no problems reported with the Cassini spacecraft.
The Huygens probe, built and managed by the European Space Agency, was bolted to Cassini and has been riding along during the nearly seven-year journey to Saturn largely in a "sleep" mode. Huygens will be the first human-made object to explore on- site the unique environment of Titan, whose chemistry is assumed to be very similar to that of early Earth before life formed. Huygens will tell us whether this assumption is correct.
"We wish to congratulate our European partners as their journey begins and wish them well on their descent to Titan," said Robert
T. Mitchell, Cassini program manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We are very excited to see the probe off and to have accomplished this part of our job. Now weï¿½re ready to finish our part ï¿½ receiving and relaying the Huygens data back to Earth."
"Todayï¿½s release is another successful milestone in the Cassini- Huygens odyssey,ï¿½ said Dr. David Southwood, director of science program for the European Space Agency.
ï¿½This was an amicable separation after seven years of living together. Our thanks to our partners at NASA for the lift. Each spacecraft will now continue on its own but we expect theyï¿½ll keep in touch to complete this amazing mission. Now all our hopes and expectations are focused on getting the first in-situ data from a new world weï¿½ve been dreaming of exploring for decades."
The Huygens probe will remain dormant until the onboard timer wakes it up just before the probe reaches Titan's upper atmosphere on Jan. 14, 2005. Then it will be begin a dramatic plunge through Titan's murky atmosphere, tasting its chemical makeup and composition as it descends to touch down on its surface.
The data gathered during this 2-1/2 hour descent will be transmitted from the probe to the Cassini orbiter.
Afterward, Cassini will point its antenna to Earth and relay the data through NASA's Deep Space Network to JPL and on to the European Space Agency's Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, which serves as the operations center for the Huygens probe mission. From this control center, ESA engineers will be tracking the probe and scientists will be standing by to process the data from the probe's six instruments.
On Monday, Dec. 27, the Cassini orbiter will perform a deflection maneuver to keep it from following Huygens into Titan's atmosphere. This maneuver will also establish the required geometry between the probe and the orbiter for radio communications during the probe descent.
Cassini-Huygens at JPL
Cassini Imaging Team
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express
Researchers Present Cassini Findings At Saturn
Iowa City IA (SPX) Dec 20, 2004
As NASA's Cassini spacecraft approached Saturn last July, it found evidence that lightning on Saturn is roughly one million times stronger than lightning on Earth.
Titan Weather: Storm Trackers
Moffett Field CA (SPX) Dec 17, 2004
Astronomers had seen storms around Titan's south pole before, but now they've been discovered at the moon's mid-latitudes as well. The discovery was made using the Gemini North and Keck 2 observatories, which have adaptive optics systems capable of resolving Saturn's largest moon with great detail.
Saturn System Driven By Ice, Says University Of Colorado Researchers
Boulder CO (SPX) Dec 17, 2004
Ice particles are key players in the ever-changing panorama at Saturn, according to a new study led by a University of Colorado at Boulder professor using an instrument on the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft now at the ringed planet.
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.|