Cassini-Huygens Mission Status Report
The Cassini spacecraft beamed back information and pictures
tonight after successfully skimming the hazy atmosphere of
Saturn's moon Titan. NASA's Deep Space Network tracking
station in Madrid, Spain, acquired a signal at about 6:25
p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (9:25 p.m. Eastern Daylight
Time). As anticipated, the spacecraft came within 1,200
kilometers (750 miles) of Titan's surface.
Image above: This image is one of the closest ever taken of Saturn's hazy moon Titan. It was captured by Cassini's imaging science subsystem on Oct. 26, 2004. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
+ Click for full image.
At the time, Cassini was about 1.3 billion kilometers (826
million miles) from Earth. Numerous images, perhaps as many
as 500, were taken by the visible light camera and were
being transmitted back to Earth. It takes 1 hour and 14
minutes for the images to travel from the spacecraft to
Earth. The downlink of data will continue through the night
into the early morning hours. Cassini project engineers will
continue to keep a close watch on a rainstorm in Spain,
which may interrupt the flow of data from the spacecraft.
The flyby was by far the closest any spacecraft has ever
come to Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, perpetually
drenched in a thick blanket of smog. Titan is a prime
target of the Cassini-Huygens mission because it is the only
moon in our solar system with an atmosphere. It is a cosmic
time capsule that offers a look back in time to see what
Earth might have been like before the appearance of life.
The Huygens probe, built and operated by the European Space
Agency, is attached to Cassini; its release is planned on
Christmas Eve. It will descend through Titan's opaque
atmosphere on Jan. 14, 2005, to collect data and touch down
on the surface.
The latest information and images from Cassini are available
. Additional information on
the mission and raw images are at http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of
NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space
Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the
California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the
Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission
Directorate, Washington, D.C.
Carolina Martinez (818) 354-9382
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Don Savage (202) 358-1727
NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.