After long trip, spacecraft has Saturn in sights

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by wdlove, Jun 12, 2004.

  1. wdlove macrumors P6


    Oct 20, 2002
    US-Europe probe will orbit planet

    By Andrew Bridges, Associated Press *|* June 12, 2004

    LOS ANGELES -- Out so far in space that the sun is a tiny dot, the most sophisticated science spacecraft ever is nearing Saturn to begin a lengthy study of the ringed planet and its 31 known moons.

    Nearly seven years after it left the earth, Cassini, an internationally built craft named for an early astronomer, is on schedule to enter orbit June 30 after it dashes through a gap in Saturn's shimmering rings. Scientists hope its findings will reveal new secrets about the evolution of our solar system.

    Cassini had its first encounter with the Saturn system yesterday afternoon, hurtling within 1,240 miles of the outermost moon, Phoebe. The tiny moon is just 137 miles across. Saturn, in contrast, is nearly 75,000 miles in diameter.
  2. obeygiant macrumors 68040


    Jan 14, 2002
    totally cool
    I'm really excited about this. Cassini just past the moon Phoebe, which is thought to be a primordial object caught in Saturns gravity.

    On July 1st Cassini will begin its burn to slow itself enough to stay in Saturns orbit. It will cross Saturns ring plane at the green circles...

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  3. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

    Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2002
    Los Angeles
  4. wdlove thread starter macrumors P6


    Oct 20, 2002
    Craft prepares to slip through Saturn's rings for a closer look

    By Carolyn Y. Johnson, Globe Correspondent *|* June 30, 2004

    Seven years after the launch of the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft and just in time to make a case for continued government-sponsored space exploration, the $3 billion mission to study Saturn and its many moons reaches a critical juncture late tonight when on-board computers will signal the spacecraft to slow and slip into orbit between two of the planet's majestic rings.

    If Cassini executes the delicate maneuver successfully, it will be the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn. Using a strategy that scientists call "interplanetary billiards," the craft will exploit the gravitational pull of the moons to swing close to many of them over the next four years, taking close-up pictures and gathering data that may help physicists better understand how our solar system was formed.

    Another crucial moment will come in late December, when the Huygens probe is to detach from the Cassini orbiter and land on Titan, a large, cloud-shrouded moon with an atmosphere that closely resembles the primordial conditions on our own planet.

    But all that future exploration hinges on what happens tonight, starting at 10:36 p.m. EDT. Scientists from NASA and the European and Italian space agencies, which are collaborating on the mission, can only wait this evening, because radio waves signaling success or failure will take an hour and a half to get to Earth.

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