10 Surprising Facts About One Of The Most Successful Mission Of NASA: Cassini Huygens

“Cassini was, in a sense, a time machine. It revealed the processes that likely shaped the development of our solar system.”

The Cassini–Huygens mission, commonly called Cassini, was a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) to send a probe to study the planet Saturn and its system, including its rings and natural satellites. Here are 10 facts about Cassini Mission.

1. Cassini was named after astronomers Giovanni Cassini and Christiaan Huygens. Giovanni Cassini was an Italian astronomer and engineer who discovered four satellites of planet Saturn. Christiaan Huygens was Dutch physicist and inventor, chiefly known for his studies of rings of Saturn and discovery of its moon Titan.

Giovanni Cassini (left) and Christiaan Hygens

2. Cassini was the fourth space probe to visit Saturn and first to enter its orbit.

3. It was active in space for nearly 20 years, with 13 years spent orbiting Saturn. Studying the planet and its system after entering orbit in July 1, 2004.

Artist Impression of Cassini Probe Orbiting Saturn (Image:NASA)

4. Cassini’s original mission was planned to last for four years, from June 2004 to May 2008. This mission was extended for another two years until September 2010, branded the Cassini Equinox Mission. The mission was extended a second and final time with Cassini Solstice Mission, lasting another 7 years until September 15, 2017 on which date Cassini was de-orbited to burn up in Saturn’s upper atmosphere.

Artist Impression of Cassini Probe (Image:NASA)

5. Cassini was powered by 32.7 kg of Plutonium-238, the heat from material’s radio active decay was turned into electricity.

6. The probe contained a DVD with more than 616,400 signatures from citizens in 81 countries collected in a public campaign.

7. Cassini Missin discovered seven new moons orbiting Saturn. Using images taken by Cassini, researchers discovered Methone, Pallene and Polydeuces in 2004, although later analysis revealed that Voyager 2 had photographed Pallene in its 1981 flyby of the ringed.

Discovery photograph of Saturn’s moon

8. The remote sensing instruments on the Cassini Spacecraft calculated measurements from a great distance. This set included both optical and microwave sensing instruments including cameras, spectrometers, radar and radio.

9. Cassini completed 294 orbits around Saturn with 162 targeted flybys of Saturn’s moons, executed 2.5 million commands and collected 635 GB science data.

10. Following a final close flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan, Cassini performed a series of 22 weekly dives between the planets and its rings – the mission’s “Grand Finale”. On its final orbit, Cassini plunged into Saturn’s atmosphere at thousands of miles per hour, sending back new and unique science data to the very end. After losing contact with Earth, the spacecraft burnt up like a meteor, becoming part of planet itself.

Grand Finale
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