- Title: USA/IN SPACE: CASSINI-HUYGENS PROBE SET TO PASS THROUGH SATURN'S RINGS
- Date: 30th June 2004
- Summary: (W7) LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (JUNE 23, 2004) (REUTERS) SOUNDBITE (English) CASSINI PROJECT SCIENTIST DR. DENNIS MATSON SAYING "You learn something about the process and then we can come back and reapply the same physics and chemistry to things at home here that we still don't understand. Sometimes we've learned enough new information that we can interpret that what we see here in a much more profound way."
- Embargoed: 15th July 2004 13:00
- Location: IN SPACE / LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Topics: Space
- Reuters ID: LVAD8GAPLSRSWX1JKC6ZHK3XQ3BT
- Story Text: Cassini-Huygens probe to pass through Saturn's rings Wednesday, becoming the first man-made object to orbit the planet.
The Cassini-Huygens probe will pass through Saturn's rings on Wednesday (June 30), becoming the first man-made object to orbit the planet. The space probe will study Saturn's surface, rings and seven of its 31 moons for four years.
"We will collect science after termination of the burn for about seventy-five minutes. We then reorient, put the high-gain antenna in the particle direction to serve as a shield, once we are below the plane of the rings, image the rings for a bit, looking at the sunlit side, then return back to earth and play all that data back," explained Cassini Program Manager Robert Mitchell during a press conference Tuesday (June 29) at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
Cassini-Huygens is a cooperative project with NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. Its
3 billion-dollar price tag is shared by the United States and 17 European countries and the project employs some 260 scientists. The importance of understanding Saturn, the second largest planet of the solar system, is compared to the Gallileo probe to Jupiter.
Launched on October 15, 1997 Cassini will have traveled
5 billion kilometers (2.2 billion miles) when it achieves Saturnian orbit. The probe will make 76 orbits around Saturn and 52 close passes at seven of the 31 known moons.
The information gathered could someday be used to help solve some of the mysteries here on earth, said project scientist Dr. Dennis Matson.
"You learn something about the process and then we can come back and reapply the same physics and chemistry to things at home here that we still don't understand,"
"Sometimes, we've learned enough new information that we can interpret that what we see here in a much more profound way."
A major focus of the mission is the exploration of the largest of Saturn's moons. Cassini's probe, called Huygens, is part of the European Space Agency's $600 million (USD) contribution to the project. It will be launched from Cassini December 24 and will land on Titan becoming the first probe to land on a natural satellite of a planet other than Earth.
"The composition and chemistry at work in Titan may resemble the one which was at work four billion years ago on earth before the apparition of life. So really going to Titan now, is like going back to the earth four billion years ago, really a big trip back in time," explained Huygens Mission Manager, Dr. Jean-Pierre Lebreton.
The planet and its system of rings may serve as a model for the study of gas rings and dust that circled our Sun during the formation of the planets of the Solar System.
Details on the interaction between Saturn, its rings and moons could allow understanding of how each of the planets of the Solar System evolved. The probe has already sent audio recordings of strong solar winds surrounding Saturn.
In June Cassini sent back pictures of what NASA once thought was an asteroid. The images show that Saturn's moon, Phoebe, is actually 4.5-billion-year-old "relic" from the solar system's outer reaches. The images of Phoebe's pitted surface gave scientists their first close look at an area that may have provided the building blocks of the Milky Way. High-definition photographs revealed that Phoebe likely is made up of ice, rock and carbon compounds similar to those seen in Pluto and Neptune's moon, Triton.
"This time it was a thousand times better pictures. We were taking pictures showing things the size of cars in the parking lot," scientist Dr. Torrence Johnson said after a news briefing at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
"It's a voyage of discovery, we talk about the details of the science we are going to get out of it, th at would be valuable for decades to come, but the thrill of seeing these things for the first time is really putting you in the same boots as the early voyagers of the terrestrial exploration."
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