The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft has exceeded the wildest dreams of its creators at the Discovery Institute, sending back spectacular photographs like this one—a natural color image of Saturn taken from a distance of about 900,000 miles.
(Oops. Did I say “Discovery Institute?” I meant “NASA.”)
Cassini is now starting a new chapter in its amazingly trouble-free mission: Cassini-Huygens: News.
PASADENA, Calif.-NASA’s Cassini mission is closing one chapter of its journey at Saturn and embarking on a new one with a two-year mission that will address new questions and bring it closer to two of its most intriguing targets-Titan and Enceladus.
On June 30, Cassini completes its four-year prime mission and begins its extended mission, which was approved in April of this year.
Among other things, Cassini revealed the Earth-like world of Saturn’s moon Titan and showed the potential habitability of another moon, Enceladus. These two worlds are primary targets in the two-year extended mission, dubbed the Cassini Equinox Mission. This time period also will allow for monitoring seasonal effects on Titan and Saturn, exploring new places within Saturn’s magnetosphere, and observing the unique ring geometry of the Saturn equinox in August of 2009 when sunlight will pass directly through the plane of the rings.
“We’ve had a wonderful mission and a very eventful one in terms of the scientific discoveries we’ve made, and yet an uneventful one when it comes to the spacecraft behaving so well,” said Bob Mitchell, Cassini program manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “We are incredibly proud to have completed all of the objectives we set out to accomplish when we launched. We answered old questions and raised quite a few new ones and so our journey continues.”